11 JUL 2014
Marie Georgina McGregor v Genco (FC) LTD  EWHC 1376 (QB) – Mesothelioma – Causation
High Court, Queen's Bench Division
8 May 2014
The courts had to consider whether an employee who contracted mesothelioma had been negligently exposed to asbestos fibres during the course of her employment.
The claimant was employed as a sales assistant in the defendant’s department store during the mid 1970s.
At some stage in the course of her employment, old escalators werere moved and replaced. The workmen replacing the escalators had worn protective masks and asbestos insulating boards had been erected whilst the work was carried out.
The claimant’s family had a history of mesothelioma and during proceedings it was questioned whether the claimant could have contracted mesothelioma from her father’s work clothes.
It was held that the claimant had not been exposed to asbestos in her family home. She had however, been subjected to asbestos exposure during the course of her employment with the defendant.
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Despite the fact that this exposure would not have been significant, the courts concluded that the exposure materially increasedher risk of contracting mesothelioma.
However, the fact that the defendants had erected a floor to ceiling board would have been considered adequate protection at the time. The courts did not consider that any further precautions should have been taken by the defendant or that it had failed to appreciate that the claimant was at risk of an asbestos related injury. As a result the claim was dismissed.
In assessing whether the defendant should have appreciated that the claimant was at risk of developing an asbestos related injury, Patterson J examined the standard of duty owed by the employers, looking in detail at the contemporary legislation and publications. While Patterson J expressed ‘enormous sympathy’ with the claimant, she had no hesitation in finding that the defendant, judged by the accepted standards in 1976, could not be held to be liable.