31 Jan 2024
At OHSS, we regularly bring you articles about asbestos news, as it highlights the ongoing danger that it presents - despite being banned from construction in the late 1990s. Today, we look at a story from the Court of Appeal in Northern Ireland, where it has been found that the claim of a former Titanic shipyard worker's son for asbestos exposure was wrongly dismissed.
It had been claimed that the man, now in his 70s, was a secondary victim of asbestos exposure via his father's employment at the Harland & Wolff shipyard.
"Plainly Wrong to Dismiss the Action"
The case relates to a claim for provisional damages from the plaintiff developing pleural plaques (areas of thickened tissue in the lining of the lungs). Born in March 1951, the claimant developed these plaques due to being a secondary victim after being exposed to asbestos via his father, who worked as a shipyard pipe lagger between 1948 and 1983.
Originally, Mr Justice McAlinden dismissed the claim in the High Court in December 2022, awarding costs to the respondents. However, Lady Chief Justice Siobhan Keegan determined that the trial court was plainly wrong to dismiss the action, as the medical evidence had not been challenged.
The judge concluded that, in all probability, the claimant developed pleural plaques due to exposure to asbestos fibres and dust. Having never worked with asbestos himself and given that Harland & Wolff did not dispute that until the mid-70s, workers sometimes brought home clothes contaminated with the material, the source of the exposure was likely the person and clothing of his late father.
Highlighting the Danger That Asbestos Presents
This case serves to reinforce the danger that asbestos exposure can present to health, even indirectly, via a person's clothing. It only takes a limited amount of exposure to result in mesothelioma - an aggressive type of lung cancer, meaning that it's a material that must be handled with the utmost care and caution.