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Employer’s two per cent contribution to asbestos exposure ruled as actionable by the High Court

30th July 2015

A High Court ruling which determined that a retired electrician, who had been exposed to asbestos whilst working at Exeter University, had the right to compensation will have significant bearing on other asbestos cases maintain legal experts.

Albert Carder from Exeter, now 85, sued the university after it was determined that he had been exposed to asbestos whilst working in boiler rooms and other areas of the university over an approximate 14 year period.

Mr Carder was diagnosed with asbestosis and developed early symptoms of his lung disease in 1998. His condition progressed quickly, leaving him barely able to walk 100 yards, without feeling breathless by 2013.

It was agreed that most of Mr Carder’s exposure to asbestos had occurred earlier in other employment as an electrician.

The level of exposure attributed to his role with the university constituted only a small fraction of his overall exposure and was estimated by his legal experts, Moore Blatch at 2.3%.

The university admitted that it had breached its duty of care as Mr Carder’s employers, but maintained that its low proportion of the exposure was minimal and had made "no discernible difference to his condition".

Mr Carder has been unable to pursue his other employers as they were uninsured and he is not eligible to make a claim under the Diffuse Mesothelioma Payment Scheme. The scheme was introduced to help people where an insurer or employer could not be traced, but it does not cover asbestosis.

He said: “It’s a huge relief for this case to have finally settled and to also know that I can return to court, should my condition deteriorate, which is of great comfort to me and my family.

“In those days, asbestos was thought to be such a wonderful thing; unfortunately we were not made aware of the dangers.”

As a result of his exposure, Mr Carder suffers from chronic respiratory problems and uses oxygen to assist his breathing. He says that prior to his illness he was an incredibly agile person and enjoyed dancing with his wife at least four times a week. Previously he weighed 15 stone, but is now a mere six stone and very much housebound.

The High Court ruling found that Mr Carver did suffer damage and injury that was more than minimal and was actionable, agreeing that a case had been proven against the university, despite them only making a small contribution.

Moore Blatch asbestos-related disease lawyer Michael Osborne, who represented Mr Carder comments: “This decision is important and is likely to influence other asbestos cases. Whilst there has always been a long established principle around minimal contributions to asbestos exposure by employers, this case goes a long way to define what minimal actually means. We can confidently say that it must be less than 2.3% of the total exposure to asbestos.

“Whilst the compensation secured is not substantial, it was also important to protect Mr Carder in the future, which we have been successful in doing.”

Mr Carder’s overall damages from his total exposure to asbestos were assessed at approximately £70,000, with the university’s contribution confirmed to be £1,713.

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