October 23, 2014

Landmark Court victory for mesothelioma victim

Mr McDonald was a lorry driver who regularly had to visit Battersea Power Station during the course of his employment. While there, there was often repair and refit work being carried out. In Battersea, like all power stations, asbestos was extensively used to lag many miles of pipework, turbines and other machinery. Any repair or maintenance work would involve the removal of old asbestos lagging and the application of new, once the repairs had been completed. Asbestos powder would be mixed with water to form a paste, which was used to cover (lag) the pipework and vessels. The scale of the power station was enormous, and the dust generated during repairs or refits would have been considerable.

Mr McDonald’s own employers had long since ceased trading, and their insurers could not be found. He sought compensation from the electricity generating company that ran the power station. He based his arguments on the Asbestos Industry Regulations 1931 – which were designed to protect workers from asbestos dust. He also relied on the Factories Act 1937.

The High Court found in favour of Mr McDonald and awarded him judgment last year. Sadly, he had died just a few days before his trial so never knew the outcome.

The Supreme Court agreed that the Asbestos Industry Regulations apply not only to asbestos factories, but to any site where asbestos powder was being mixed. The Judgment in favour of Mr McDonald has therefore been upheld, giving real peace of mind and justice to his family.

The implication of this judgment is very widespread, almost as widespread as the use of asbestos over the years. In countless factories, hospitals, schools and in the electricity generation and oil refineries, asbestos will have been mixed to a paste to lag pipework and boilers. This decision confirms that the owners/occupiers of the factory are liable not only to their employees, but to others working alongside them. Previously it was often possible for these often huge companies to escape liability.

Helen Childs, specialist asbestos solicitor says “This decision will provide very welcome reassurance to those whose lives have been blighted by mesothelioma and other asbestos illnesses. Sadly, Mr McDonald did not live to see the outcome of his case, but his family now have the justice that he deserved. Mesothelioma is a very cruel and aggressive illness, and Mr McDonald will have suffered dreadfully, after living with the knowledge that he was terminally ill."

Anyone who is diagnosed with an asbestos related illness should seek specialist advice.

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