New mesothelioma industrial disease ruling may affect UK compensation claims

Posted Oct 25, 2018.
A recent appeal court decision in the US is set to have significant implications for suppliers and manufacturers in the UK involved in the production of components that contain asbestos and the subsequent health risks involved.
The decision at the New Jersey appeals court – Whelan v Armstrong – means that manufacturers of products that contain asbestos must also warn users of any replacement parts that may carry the same health risk, even if they are made by a different manufacturer.  In the case in question, a claimant who was previously a plumber and a mechanic took legal action against a number of companies claiming that his mesothelioma illness had been caused by asbestos exposure over a twenty year period up until the early 1970’s. 

Mesothelioma is a particularly unpleasant form of cancer that develops from the thin layer of tissue known as the mesothelium that covers many of our internal organs. Areas most typically affected are the chest and lungs, but the disease can also affect the abdomen or heart. The majority – more than 8 in 10 – of mesothelioma cases are caused by exposure to asbestos, with increased exposure correlating to increased risk of developing the disease. Symptoms typically take years to develop and include coughing, chest pain, shortness of breath, weight loss and constantly feeling tired. The disease, which can take up to 40 years to develop, is most common in workers involved in mining, construction, engineering, heavy industry and maintenance, and can also affect others not directly involved in such activities including for example individuals involved in washing the clothing of someone working with asbestos. 

The defendants in the US case argued that as they didn’t manufacture the parts involved, they did not have any liability for the subsequent industrial disease diagnosis. However, the court found that:

“A product that contained asbestos when it was supplied by the manufacturer, with no warning as to the dangers posed by the asbestos-containing component, and that contained asbestos when encountered by a worker years later, remains in substantially the same defective condition, whether or not its original asbestos has been replaced with other asbestos.”

If you have been affected by mesothelioma, asbestosis or other industrial diseaseone of our experienced and friendly team will be happy to help on a no-obligation basis.