Abigail Holt Succeeds in Asbestos - Related Pleural Thickening Liability Trial

Oldman v DEFRA

Abigail Holt succeeded at trial on liability for a victim of pleural thickening, Mr Oldman, who had worked as a Marine Engineer on Government Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (MAFF) vessels between 1951 and 1983. Sadly, Mr Oldman died shortly after proceedings were issued which contributed towards challenges in presenting the evidence on exposure, not least because, at the time of diagnosis of DPT, the Deceased denied that he had worked with asbestos.  Nonetheless having considered other evidence, HHJ Moloney QC found that the Deceased simply did not realise that the lagged pipes he worked on had contained asbestos when first asked about his work history by treating doctors.    

Perhaps of greater significance is the Judge’s findings based on the 1945 letter of Mr Garrett (Chief Inspector of Factories) written to the Shipbuilding and Ship Repairing Industry and the 1971 research paper of Surgeon Commander Harries, as well as the Claimant’s witness statement evidence and DWP records, but in the absence of expert engineering evidence. HHJ Moloney applied the authority of Jeromson [2001] EWCA Civ 101 and found that what was required for liability was knowledge that the exposure (to asbestos) was likely to cause some form of pulmonary disease. The Judge found that the Defendant owed the Claimant a duty to reduce their risk of exposure to asbestos to the greatest possible extent; that there is no evidence that they took any precautionary steps at all; and that the nature and duties of a marine engineer starting in the 1950’s would have exposed the Deceased to a high risk of exposure to asbestos. The Judge considered that Jeromson was more applicable to Mr Oldman’s case than the line of authorities represented by Williams [2011].

The Judge also noted that the Shipbuilding and Shiprepairing Regulations 1960 and the Asbestos Regulations 1969 probably did not apply to the Deceased as he would be considered to have been a member of the ships’ crew, rather than a dockworker, but that the statutory instruments gave some indication of the state of knowledge and good practice in relation to asbestos at the time which could be relevant to the existence and breach of duty at common law.

On the day of trial general damages were agreed at £50,000 for a 30% asbestos-related respiratory disability but did not include any element for bereavement as there was no firm evidence that the death cause/contributed to Mr Oldman’s death. 

A copy of the judgement can be downloaded by clicking the link: 



Abigail Holt is a specialist Personal Injury Practitioner with considerable experience in dealing with industrial disease cases.

For further information about Abigail or any other aspect of chambers please contact her clerks at: 

[email protected]

0161 833 6021

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