Asbestos claims suffer setback in Appeal Court

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The Independent Online
A senior Court of Appeal judge yesterday refused to concede that a hearing on asbestos- related cancers was a test case for up to 500 sufferers.

A British multinational engineering company, T&N, is trying to overturn a High Court judge's landmark decision in October last year that it must pay damages over two cancer victims who as children played in the drifts of white dust which blanketed the roads around their homes.

The High Court decision - the first time that a court had awarded compensation for asbestos claims made by anyone other than those working in a plant - was hailed by solicitors representing victims as a test case for up to 40 other people in the Armley area of Leeds near the asbestos plant, and possibly 500 nationally. But Lord Justice Russell said on the second day of the Court of Appeal hearing that he was "far from satisfied" about reports that the High Court decision and the current appeal was a test case. "It has special features relating to these two people and the High Court judge expressly rejected the environmental argument," he said. It was a feature of the two cases that the victims had told of asbestos dust lying like snow in their school playground and of making snowballs from split bags of raw asbestos on the loading bay at the factory, JW Roberts, Lord Justice Russell said. "This was a case about two people being exposed to high concentrations of a hazardous nature, playing at the loading bay. It does not relate to other cases."

Evelyn Margereson, 70, was awarded pounds 50,000 by the High Court in Leeds for the death five years ago of her husband, Arthur, who had mesothelioma, a cancer of the chest lining. June Hancock, 60, who was awarded pounds 65,000, is suffering from the same disease.

William Woodward QC, for T&N, has told Lord Justice Russell and two other Court of Appeal judges that the dust outside the immediate area of the factory and before regulations were introduced in 1933 had been deemed "not guilty" in the High Court judgment. He said it could not be determined which dust had caused the mesothelioma.

The hearing continues.