Albert Carder v (1) Secretary of State for Health (2) University of Exeter (QBD, 28.07.15)

The Claimant developed asbestosis as a result of being negligently exposed to asbestos in the course of his work as an electrician. It was agreed that the Second Defendant was responsible for 2.3% of the total exposure. The medical evidence indicated that this proportion had made no discernible difference to the Claimant’s condition. In reliance on this evidence, the Second Defendant argued that its negligence had not resulted in an actionable injury.

HHJ Gore QC, sitting as a Deputy High Court Judge, held that the question was whether the Claimant had suffered real damage and was worse off to a degree that was not so trivial that a claim in damages was not justified. Although a 2.3% contribution was small, it was not de minimis. Asbestosis is a divisible disease and each source of asbestos exposure contributes in proportion to the overall condition. The Second Defendant’s contribution to that exposure caused the Claimant to be worse off physically, even if not in a way that was noticeable or measurable. Accordingly, the Claimant had suffered actionable damage.

The Second Defendant was therefore liable for 2.3% of the Claimant’s damages, which were assessed at £67,500 on a provisional basis, including £60,000 for pain, suffering and loss of amenity.

Despite the relatively low value of the claim, this decision is important to the Claimant as it allows him to seek further damages if his condition deteriorates or if he develops a different asbestos-related condition such as mesothelioma. Without this judgment, any future claim was at risk of failing altogether on limitation grounds.

Harry Steinberg acted on behalf of the Claimant.