Godbert v Ministry of Defence
The claimant (G) claimed damages for personal injury from the defendant ministry. G had been employed by the Atomic Energy Commission as a lagger, between 1949 and 1953. G made steam pipe insulation by mixing sacks of raw asbestos powder with water. The process created clouds of asbestos dust which would get all over G. All the coats of asbestos were applied to the pipes by hand without the use of any tool. G also had to cut asbestos sheeting into size, sweep up asbestos dust and re-lag pipes; that necessitated the removal of old asbestos which generated asbestos clouds. G never wore a mask except on one occasion and often he was unable to wash before he went home.
G suffered from diffuse interstitial pulmonary fibrosis. The parties' experts agreed that G's four-year period as an asbestos lagger would probably have resulted in exposures to asbestos of sufficient duration and intensity to put him at risk of developing asbestosis. The ministry accepted that the minimum threshold had been crossed but no more. An issue arose as to whether it was asbestosis or whether it was idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis; if it was the former the cause was inhalation of asbestos fibre; if it was the second the cause was unknown. G was not diagnosed as suffering from diffuse pulmonary fibrosis until 2005.