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Case Study

Fairchild v Glenhaven Funeral Services Limited

On 11 December 2001, the Court of Appeal gave its decision in Fairchild and five other related cases. The consequences of these decisions have been widely reported.

Mesothelioma claimants who have been exposed to asbestos dust by more than one defendant are unlikely to succeed in their claims as a result of those decisions. The House of Lords will hear the appeals in two of the related cases, Fox v Spousal (Midland) Limited and Matthews v Associated Portland Cement Manufacturers (1978) Limited, on 22 April 2002.

FFW partner Rodney Nelson-Jones has accepted an invitation to join the legal team representing the appellants. He is concentrating on the public policy and foreign law aspects of the cases in conjunction with Sir Sydney Kentridge QC.

The current position following Fairchild is that claimants suffering from mesothelioma who have been exposed to asbestos dust from more than one source, and particularly if they have been exposed by roughly similar amounts from each source, will not succeed in a claim against any of those defendants. This is because the Court of Appeal found that the claimants in that type of case could not prove, on the balance of probabilities, the source of the fibre or fibres that initiated the development of the tumour and could therefore not identify the “guilty” source. The fact that the defendants had admitted breaches of duty and negligence causing the claimants to be exposed to “substantial quantities” of asbestos dust made no difference.

This decision does not directly apply to asbestosis or other asbestos pleural disease claims.

Update: see Decision of House of Lords

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