Ian Stuart Knauer v Ministry of Justice  EWHC 2553 (QB); (2014) APIL 058
High Court, Queen’s Bench Division, Bean J 24 July 2014
The court was asked to determine quantum in a claim under the Law Reform Act and Fatal Accidents Act after the claimant’s wife contracted and died from mesothelioma following exposure to asbestos while at work.
For 10 years until 2007 Sally Knauer worked in a prison. Many of the buildings she was required to go in contained asbestos. Two years after resigning from her position she was diagnosed with mesothelioma, as a result of the asbestos exposure, and told she had 6 months to live. Mrs Knauer died in August 2009 aged 46, leaving her husband and three sons aged 22, 20 and 16 respectively. The claimant, who was her widower and administrator of her estate, pursued a claim for damages under the Law Reform Act and Fatal Accidents Act. Liability was admitted following exchange of witness evidence and judgment was entered by consent with damages to be assessed. Some of the heads of loss remained in dispute and the trial judge was asked to determine them. The JC Guidelines (12th Edition) give a bracket for PSLA resulting from mesothelioma of £51,500 - £92,500. The judge awarded £80,000. Zambarda v Shipbreaking (Queenborough) Ltd  EWHC 2263 was among a number of cases to be considered. In addition the judge awarded £5,749.60 for services Mrs Knauer would have provided to the household during her suffering but could not. Services dependency was assessed as £88,160 (past) and £329,241 (future). Hay v Hughes  QB 790 referred to. Mrs Knauer worked in a different role at the time of her diagnosis which was generating an income. The judge assessed past and future income dependency as £23,182 and £82,136 respectively. Other heads of loss which were agreed included £17,420.91 for care, £11,800 for bereavement damages, £2,283 for funeral expenses and £3,000 for intangible benefit, giving a total award before interest of £642,972.51.
This was a tragic case involving mesothelioma, described by the judge as “a hideous and incurable disease causing appalling suffering”. Owing to the circumstances of the case he rightly had considerable sympathy for the claimant. Despite the defendant contesting many of the heads of loss, the judge favoured the arguments put forward on the claimant’s behalf which in the end resulted in a substantial claim for damages.