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UK car maker liable after asbestos killed a worker's wife - Carey v Vauxhall Motors Limited [2019] EWHC 238 (QB)

25 February 2019
Healthcare | DWF
The UK High Court recently accepted that Vauxhall, a large car manufacturer, was liable for the death of Lydia Carey, the wife of an electrician and former employee of Vauxhall. 

It was claimed that Ms Carey contracted her mesothelioma after handling her husband’s clothes during his time working for the car manufacturer at Bedfordshire from 1973 to 1979. Sadly, Ms Carey died of cancer in 2018 before the matter went to court.

Vauxhall was unsuccessful in arguing that there was minimal asbestos at the worksite where Mr Carey worked from 1973 to 1979.  Importantly, the car manufacturer did not argue that its duty of care did not extend to a family member who washed a worker’s clothes, but rather that exposure at the site was minimal and not causally significant.  Vauxhall failed in this argument, with the court finding that the dangers of asbestos were well known as early as the 1960s and that at this worksite there was sufficient asbestos to cause Ms Carey’s cancer. 

Although it is acknowledged that the UK Courts apply a less rigorous test on causation, the test being whether asbestos exposure ‘materially increased the risk’ to cancer, it is nonetheless likely that an Australian Court would come to the same conclusion, albeit applying the Australian law of causation.  Under Australian law, the asbestos exposure needs to be more than minimal and must have caused or materially contributed to the development of the cancer.

Damages are yet to be assessed by the UK Court. A copy of the full judgement can be found here: https://www.roydswithyking.com/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/2019/02/Carey-Judgment_001.pdf

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