Family of heavy smoker successfully claim for asbestos exposure

The family of a man who has died from lung cancer have successfully been awarded compensation from his former employers. The cancer was caused by a combination of smoking and exposure to asbestos – but his history of smoking did not prevent the claim from being successful.

Cyril Hollow had worked for the company between 1966 and 1986, and was exposed to asbestos dust during that time. He had smoked from the age of 14, and until he died aged 70.

An assessment by the former employers’ medical expert found that the lung cancer was caused by a combination of smoking and exposure to asbestos, but opinion differed over the relative contribution of each factor.

The former employer attempted to establish that Mr Hollow was significantly to blame for his lung cancer through a mathematical calculation of risk, but this was unable to include wider biological factors and found to be unreliable; the court believed that the assessment could not translate directly into an accurate apportionment of contributory fault.

The court ruled that it was the employer’s duty not to breach safety conditions. Mr Hollow was exposed to asbestos as a result of the their negligence and breach of statutory duty. The crucial fact was that the cancer was caused or contributed to by exposure to asbestos.

Another factor considered was that Mr Hollow’s years of smoking before the 1970s could not be viewed as contributory negligence, due to a lack of public awareness of the dangers of smoking during that period.

Ultimately, the employers were found to be liable, and the contributory fault on Mr Hollow’s part was ruled to have been 30 per cent.

A combination of smoking and exposure to asbestos can drastically increase the risk of lung cancer. It is known that smoking and asbestos exposure have a synergistic effect, but their exact relationship is unknown. Asbestos cases can be complex in terms of determining the interplay between smoking and asbestos exposure.

Rebecca Montague, Asbestos Litigation Specialist at Macks, says “Asbestos claims involving lung cancer where there is a history of smoking can be difficult. It is important to have a lawyer experienced at handling such claims on your side.”

 


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