In an important ruling in the Court of Appeal, Lord Justice Jackson has upheld a High Court decision that a former dock worker had "constructive knowledge" about his lung cancer under section 14 of the Limitation Act in 2003, after being asked by at least one of his doctors about his former lifestyle and employment.Although the claimant, George Collins, did not have actual knowledge of the link until 2009, it was ruled that given the questions that he was asked in medical consultations in 2002, he had "constructive knowledge" of his cancer by 2003, because as a "reasonable man" he ought to have asked his doctor about the possible causes of his cancer.
This decision highlights that solicitors should only seek to rely on section 33 in exceptional circumstances even in industrial disease cases where discretion has in the past often been applied in cases. This case also highlights the responsibility on patients to ask questions and make investigations into the possible link between their diagnosis and their previous work history at the earliest opportunity. Failure to do so could result in the Court establishing that they had constructive knowledge some time before they were actually made aware of the link.
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The full judgment is available here.