Asbestos disease: Claims against multiple employers

Category: Asbestos, Personal Injury

During the 1950’s, 1960’s and 1970’s Mr Lloyd, who mainly worked as a welder, was exposed to dangerous levels of asbestos whilst in the employ of a number of different firms.

He had a rather complicated medical history and there was some doubt about when exactly his asbestos-related disease was diagnosed.  The High Court who heard the case in February last year eventually decided that he suffered from asbestosis and that this had been diagnosed on the 6 October 2008 following a CT scan.  Mr Lloyd settled claims against two of his former employers on a full and final basis, meaning that the claims were settled to include the risk of his going on to develop a more serious condition such as lung cancer or mesothelioma.

It was not long after he settled these two claims that he died.  The post mortem examination showed that he was suffering from cancer, although it still was not particularly clear whether this was mesothelioma, and therefore attributable to asbestos exposure.

Mr Lloyd’s widow then commenced proceedings against one of the other employers.  This employer’s insurers had been notified of the claim back in 2008, but because of technical arguments about insurance cover had refused to negotiate with Mr Lloyd’s solicitors.  The insurers now argued that the case against them should be “struck out” because (i) the claim against them should have been pursued at the same time as the other claims and (ii) that too much time had now passed (more than three years) since the diagnosis of the asbestos disease.

Mr Lloyd’s widow accepted that the claim had been issued after the 3 year period, but sought permission from the Court under section 33 of the Limitation Act to extend that period.

The Judge who heard the case, Mrs Justice Laing, found that Mr Lloyd had a claim against each of his employers, but as each was a separate claim, it was irrelevant that they were pursued at different times.  The Judge went on to find that although the claim had been issued outside of the 3 year limitation period there was no real prejudice to the insurers caused by the delay and so the claim should be allowed to proceed.

Michael Shiers is a Solicitor at Nash & Co Solicitors in Plymouth. He has been a member of the Law Society’s Personal Injury Specialist panel since 1996 and is an accredited Senior Litigator of the Association of Personal Injury Lawyers.

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