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Asbestos and Cape plc

Asbestos miners and workers in Africa have been largely unprotected from the dangers of asbestos fibres during their working lives. Meanwhile the multinational company that owns the mines has been able to operate free from legal claims.

It is difficult for people to get justice for their injuries in developing countries because the small companies that own the mines and factories have little money or insurance and workers rights are poorly protected.

Leigh Day acted for 7,500 South African asbestos miners who sued Cape plc in the UK courts. The claimants were former miners or relatives of deceased miners formerly employed on Cape plc’s asbestos mines in the Northern Cape and Limpopo provinces. Approximately five hundred of the claimants’ claims were for mesothelioma, the fatal asbestos-related cancer of the lining of the lungs. 

Cape plc contested jurisdiction over a period of three years, arguing that the case should be heard in South Africa. The case went all the way up to the House of Lords before the claimants were permitted to proceed on the basis of the legal principle established in earlier cases brought by Leigh Day. 

Leigh Day successful negotiated a settlement out of court with Cape plc in 2003. By that time a further one thousand claimants had died.

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