Causation Asbestos in UK Law

Leading Cases
  • Grieves v Everard and Sons and Another and associated claims
    • House of Lords
    • 17 Oct 2007

    This approach does not seem to me, however, to address the fundamental point that, while the pleural plaques can be said to amount to an injury or a disease, neither the injury nor the disease was in itself harmful. This is not a case where a claim of low value requires the support of other elements to make it actionable. The need for this is due to what the pleural plaques indicate about the extent of the exposure to asbestos.

  • Sienkiewicz v Greif (UK) Ltd; Knowsley Metropolitan Borough Council v Willmore
    • Supreme Court
    • 09 Mar 2011

    In most cases, indeed possibly in all cases, it is caused by the inhalation of asbestos fibres. The rule in its current form can be stated as follows: when a victim contracts mesothelioma each person who has, in breach of duty, been responsible for exposing the victim to a significant quantity of asbestos dust and thus creating a "material increase in risk" of the victim contracting the disease will be held to be jointly and severally liable for causing the disease.

  • BAI (Run Off) Ltd (in Scheme of Arrangement) v Durham and Others
    • Supreme Court
    • 28 Mar 2012

    In my view, these considerations justify a conclusion that, for the purposes of the insurances, liability for mesothelioma following upon exposure to asbestos created during an insurance period involves a sufficient "weak" or "broad" causal link for the disease to be regarded as "caused" within the insurance period. The risk is no more than an element or condition necessary to establish liability for the mesothelioma.

  • Fairchild v Glenhaven Funeral Services Ltd and Others
    • House of Lords
    • 20 Jun 2002

    It is accepted that the risk of developing a mesothelioma increases in proportion to the quantity of asbestos dust and fibres inhaled: the greater the quantity of dust and fibre inhaled, the greater the risk. But the condition may be caused by a single fibre, or a few fibres, or many fibres: medical opinion holds none of these possibilities to be more probable than any other, and the condition once caused is not aggravated by further exposure.

  • Williams (on Behalf of the Estate and Dependants of Michael Williams, Deceased) v University of Birmingham and Another
    • Court of Appeal (Civil Division)
    • 28 Oct 2011

    The claimants could demonstrate that their employers owed them a duty of care and that they had negligently breached that duty by exposing them to asbestos dust and so the consequent risk of contracting mesothelioma. Therefore at first instance and on appeal, each of the claimants failed because they could not prove a particular employer's breach of duty caused the mesothelioma which the claimants had contracted.

    Therefore, the claimant must show, first, that the defendant owed the victim a duty of care not unreasonably to expose him to asbestos fibres and the consequent risk of asbestos related injury, including mesothelioma. Secondly, the claimant must show that the defendant was in breach of that duty by being negligent in exposing the victim to asbestos fibres and consequent asbestos related injury that was the reasonably foreseeable result of that negligence.

    To determine that question, it seems to me the judge had to make findings about (1) the actual level of exposure to asbestos fibres to which Mr Williams was exposed; (2) what knowledge the University ought to have had in 1974 about the risks posed by that degree of exposure to asbestos fibres; (3) whether, with that knowledge, it was (or should have been) reasonably foreseeable to the University that, with that level of exposure, Mr Williams was likely to be exposed to asbestos related injury; (4) the reasonable steps that the University ought to have taken in the light of the exposure to asbestos fibres to which Mr Williams was exposed in fact; and (5) whether the University negligently failed to take the necessary reasonable steps.

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Books & Journal Articles
  • Sienkiewicz v Greif (UK) Ltd and Willmore v Knowsley Metropolitan Borough Council: A Material Contribution to Uncertainty?
    • Nbr. 74-5, September 2011
    • The Modern Law Review
    In the conjoined cases of Sienkiewicz and Willmore, the Supreme Court decided that the exceptional Fairchild approach to the proof of causation in negligence applied where a mesothelioma victim had...
    ...... where a mesothelioma victim had been negligently exposed to asbestos byo nedefe ndantat a level well below unavoid- able environmentalasbestos ... ng the primacy of the common law as go verning the rules of causation in mesothelioma cases, the Supreme Court failed to clarify the scope of ......
  • Justifying Exceptions to Proof of Causation in Tort Law
    • Nbr. 78-5, September 2015
    • The Modern Law Review
    This article defends a set of exceptions to the general rule in tort law that a claimant must prove that a particular defendant's wrongful conduct was a cause of its injury on the balance of probab...
    ...... the risk of the claimant’s injury to generate liability in certain contexts, most notably in cases of mesothelioma caused by exposure to asbestos dust. 6 In these contexts, the claimant succeeds despite it being impossible to prove on the balance of probabilities that the defendant’s wrongful ......
  • Factual Causation
    • Nbr. 38-3, September 2010
    • Federal Law Review
    ...... 6 See Jane Stapleton, 'The Two Explosive Proof- of -Causation Doctrines Central to Asbestos Claims' (2009) 74 Brooklyn L aw Review 1011 (hereafter 'The Two Explosive Proof- of - Causation Doctrines ') . 7 See ......
  • ‘Loss of a Chance’ Revisited: Gregg v Scott
    • Nbr. 66-4, July 2003
    • The Modern Law Review
    ...... reached if it could not first be established, at the stage of causation, that the injury had been caused by the defendant’s negligence. In ... developed mesothelio- ma as a consequence of his exposure to asbestos, caused by the negligence of successive employers. Such is the aetiology ......
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Law Firm Commentaries
  • Blog: Court Of Appeal Considers Application Of Fairchild Test In Asbestos-Induced Lung Cancer Cases
    • JD Supra United Kingdom
    In Heneghan v Manchester Dry Docks Ltd & Ors [2016] EWCA Civ 86, the Court of Appeal considered whether the Fairchild exception should be applied in a case of multiple exposures to asbestos le...
    ...... The Court of Appeal identified the two stages of the causation question. The first question (the “what” question) is what probably caused the lung cancer. It was not in dispute that the epidemiological ......
  • Strict Liability For Employers In Asbestos Claims?
    • Mondaq United Kingdom
    ...... The Defendant admitted its use of asbestos but denied breach of duty of care. It also denied causation, arguing that any occupational exposure to asbestos had been minimal and much less than the background environmental exposure. In order to succeed, ......
  • Contributory Negligence In Lung Cancer Claims
    • Mondaq UK
    ...... 20% of his working time was spent in conditions where there was asbestos dust. It was agreed by the parties the Claimant's death was caused by ... Negligence) Act 1945 ('the 1945 Act') is not limited to causation, but also encompasses blameworthiness. The Defendant was under a ......
  • Asbestos Update
    • Mondaq United Kingdom
    ......A causation based wording is triggered at the time the injured employee is exposed to and inhaled asbestos dust. By contrast, Public Liability ("PL") policies ......
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