Judge ruling makes factory occupier liable for asbestos compensation for non-employee

In what is being considered a landmark judgement, the Supreme Court has ruled that an asbestos-related cancer victim should receive compensation from a site occupier, despite the man in question, Percy McDonald, not being a direct employee.

Ordinarily, it is the employer who is accountable in cases of compensation.  Mr McDonald died in February 2014 from mesothelioma, a rare form of cancer caused by exposure to asbestos.  Although he did not directly interact with the substance in the course of his duties, he did go into parts of Battersea Power Station, the plant in which he picked up waste products, where asbestos dust was generated.

The defence had originally argued that Mr McDonald could not receive compensation because he was not employed by the occupier of the site, and his primary work was not directly involved with the substance.

A majority of three judges to two ruled that the occupier of the premises is responsible for all people on site, not just direct employees, under the guises of the Factories Act 1961.

Alida Coates, a partner in the asbestos-related disease team, said: “This is a victory for all victims of asbestos-related diseases who have been exposed to the deadly dust while visiting factory premises as part of their day-to-day job.

“It also extends the scope of the Factories Act to assist those injured during their work on factory sites.  It makes perfectly clear that the occupiers of the factory building have responsibility for protecting people engaged in processes on their site, not just their direct employees.”

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Nigel is the Managing Partner and Head of Litigation and Dispute Resolution in the London office of Mackrell Turner Garrett.