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Landmark asbestos victory goes to Court of Appeal

One of the UK's former largest asbestos manufacturers, Cape PLC is going to the Court of Appeal today to challenge the verdict in the case of an asbestosis sufferer from Uxbridge.

8 February 2012

One of the UK's former largest asbestos manufacturers, Cape PLC is going to the Court of Appeal today to challenge the verdict in the case of an asbestosis sufferer from Uxbridge.

David Chandler, 71, successfully took legal action against Cape PLC In April 2011. In the first decision of its kind in the UK, Cape Plc, as a parent company was held responsible for the unsafe working conditions resulting in asbestos exposure operated at a site owned by its subsidiary, Cape Building Products Limited (‘CBP’).

David Chandler, aged 71, who now lives near Melbourne Australia with his wife Marjorie, was employed by CBP between 1959 and 1961. He suffered heavy asbestos exposure from the dust escaping from another factory at the same site. He was diagnosed with asbestosis in 2007.

Cape tried to avoid its liability by claiming that as CBP is a separate legal entity, it should not be held responsible. Essentially, they attempted to hide behind the 'corporate veil’, which treats both parent, and subsidiary as separate entities, which means that one company cannot be found liable for the actions of another.

However, Leigh Day & Co provided evidence that Cape PLC were directly involved with the health & safety of the workers at CBP’s premises and knew about the dangers of asbestos.

At trial, the High Court Judge found that Cape were aware of what was going on at its subsidiary factories and that both companies were closely connected.

Convinced of Cape’s involvement in asbestos safety during the time Mr Chandler worked at the site, the High Court found in Mr Chandler’s favour and granted damages of over £120,000. However, Mr Chandler has not received a penny because of the ongoing Appeal.

Vijay Ganapathy, senior solicitor in Leigh Day's Asbestos Disease Department said: “There is no reason why a parent company should be entitled to special treatment where it is directly involved, with and knows about the dangers of, particular activities of a subsidiary, but fails to act.

“It is surprising therefore that Cape would seek to protect itself from its own obligations. It knew of the horrific working conditions which Mr Chandler endured daily, but still failed to help him and other workers, despite having the means to do so.”

Mr Chandler is presently dependant on his wife and family who provide him care. He is restricted in his own personal activities. As his condition deteriorates, he will need more care for which he may require professional assistance. Therefore, without financial support, Mr Chandler faces a dire future. Cape has sought to argue that because CBP is a separate company they should not be liable. However, the law does not protect individuals or companies who are themselves aware of and\or directly concerned with matters that cause disease or other injury.

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