In a case which raised novel issues of importance to victims of industrial disease, a retired labourer who was stricken with asbestos-related lung cancer has won the right to sue three of his former employers for more than £185,000 in damages after the High Court rejected arguments that he was ‘having his cake and eating it’. 

The man had been exposed to asbestos whilst working for a number of different employers at ports and oil refineries in the 1960s and 1970s. After being diagnosed with pleural plaques and asbestosis, he launched a damages claim against seven of his former employers, who settled his case for £26,000 in 2003. 

He later developed incurable mesothelioma and sought a much larger damages payout from three other companies for which he had worked. They argued that his case against them was an abuse of process in that they would have joined in the settlement, at a far lower cost, had they been sued in the earlier proceedings. 

It was submitted that the three companies had been left to bear an unfair financial burden due to the failure to join them in the earlier proceedings and that their defence to the claim would be prejudiced by the passage of time. 

In dismissing those arguments, however, the Court noted that the man’s cancer had been diagnosed long after the earlier proceedings were settled and gave rise to a fresh cause of action. Opening the way for the man’s case to proceed, the Court found that any prejudice that the three companies might suffer was outweighed by the prospect of him going uncompensated for his very serious condition. 

If you think you have been made ill by workplace conditions, please contact a member of our personal injury team who will advise you on the individual circumstances of your case.