The claimant was 75 years old at the date of trial. He contracted asbestosis during the course of employment with the defendant between 1970 and 1991. He developed breathing problems and was diagnosed with asbestosis in 2004. Medical opinion was that the claimant’s overall disability was in the order of 80 per cent of which 90 per cent was attributable to smoking-related lung disease and 10 per cent to the asbestos-related lung disease.

He was at an increased risk of mesothelioma and diffuse pleural thickening and there was a 35 per cent risk that he would develop lung cancer in his lifetime (50 per cent of that risk due to smoking and 50 per cent due to asbestosis). His life expectancy was in the order of seven years as a result of his smoking-related disease. He was presently bed bound and his condition was brought forward by some months by the asbestosis. He had a need for care and assistance.

The defendants argued that any damages should be limited as the respiratory effects of the asbestosis were minimal when compared to his overall disability. The judge disagreed and said “It seems to me that in this case the claimant is significantly affected by his additional respiratory disability and he is at significant risk of catastrophic disease in his lifetime”. The award was £25,000 for general damages and £4,000 for care.

Wilding -v- Centura Foods Limited. Manchester County Court, 17 July 2006.

After Barker: amendments to the Compensation Bill

In July the Compensation Bill underwent its report and third reading stages in the House of Commons. The Government’s amendment overturning the Barker judgment received cross party support and was adopted as part of the Bill. The Government also tabled an amendment that would allow the legislation to have retrospective effect.

The House of Lords agreed to the Government amendments on 19 July, although the opposition expressed some concern on the issue of retrospectivity. The Bill should have had Royal Assent by the time of the summer recess.