The decision relates to damages claims by two victims of the disease, one exposed to asbestos dust whilst at school, the other whilst working as a secretary in a packaging factory. Although the defendants in both cases did not deny that asbestos exposure had occurred, they appealed against compensation awarded by the Court of Appeal on the grounds that they should only be liable if responsible for causing exposure at a level which "at least doubled the risk" of developing mesothelioma in later years.
Today the seven Supreme Court justices unanimously dismissed the defendants appeals, rejecting the argument that claimants should show that their asbestos exposure doubled the risk of mesothelioma. The Court ruled that whether exposure was too insignificant to be taken into account was a matter for the trial judge based on the facts of each particular case.
Commenting on the decision, once legal expert in the field said
"This ruling is a positive step towards proper acknowledgement of the risks that asbestos can pose in schools and other public buildings, even if the amount of fibres which pupils, teachers and others come into contact with is relatively small.