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Is the law supporting low exposure asbestos victims?

For generations, employers exposed their workers to asbestos, a known harmful substance. Workers that developed an asbestos disease have been able to secure compensation for their employers negligence.

However, people with a low level of exposure to asbestos have found it difficult to access compensation for their condition.

It wasn’t just workers handling asbestos day in and day out that came into contact with asbestos. Others encountered the harmful substance on a limited number of occasions and families also came into contact after workers returned home covered in asbestos dust.

Some of these people have gone on to develop an asbestos-related condition later in life but the law has not been on their side when it comes to proving employers were at fault and securing compensation for their disease.

Finally, it looks like the tide is turning in favour of asbestos victims in low exposure cases.

The English Court of Appeal reversed an earlier decision that imposed a high level of proof for those seeking to prove employer was at fault in low exposure cases.

Hot on the heels of this, there have been two recent Scottish cases which reinforce the position in favour of low exposure claimants.

In a case against North British Steel Group, an office worker would run the odd errand to the factory floor where asbestos blankets were used. It was held that the worker was exposed to a sufficient amount of asbestos dust for the employer to be responsible for their asbestos disease.

In another case against Babcock International Limited, the family of a lady who died of mesothelioma, a fatal asbestos cancer, successfully argued that she had been the victim of “secondary exposure” to asbestos which came into her home on the working clothes of her husband.

Both cases should be the source of much encouragement for asbestos sufferers and their families. The message is that they should not give up hope and rely on the legal experts who are specialists in this field.

The tide is turning…

Fraser Simpson, Partner, Digby Brown



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