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Asbestosis - Losses Brought by a Wife

Earlier this year there was an interesting case involving Mrs Monica Hexton and Phillips Electronics UK Limited.  It is a very unusual but sad case, Mr and Mrs Hexton developed mesothelioma as a result of being exposed to asbestos.  Mr Hexton was employed as an electrician by the Defendants for over 40 years retiring in 2004.  He began to get symptoms attributable to mesothelioma in June 2008 and subsequently died from the disease in 2009. 

His wife was never employed by Phillips, but washed her husband’s boiler suits and work clothes and as a result also came into contact with the asbestos dust lodged in the fibres.  She went on to develop mesothelioma herself in January 2011.  She was diagnosed in 2012 with a medical prognosis of 6 – 12 months.  Happily she was still alive and able to attend the appeal hearing which was successful in her bringing a claim on behalf of her husband’s estate, including damages for loss of dependency based on the assumption that she had a remaining life expectancy of 0.7 years due to her illness. 

She then subsequently brought a claim in her own right, claiming damages for negligence and breach of statutory duty.  Liability was conceded.  She then claimed an interesting point of law, namely that but for the negligence of her husband’s employers her life would not have been shortened, and the assessment for her dependency claim in the first action would have been significantly greater had her own life not been cut short. 

She should therefore be compensated for this loss.  Damages for loss of earnings and pension benefits would be in the region of £200,000.  The question before the Court of Appeal was whether this was a recoverable head of damage.  The Court of Appeal has agreed it was and Mrs Haxton has been successful in claiming that but for the negligence of her husband’s employer she would not have a shortened life expectancy and be entitled to damages.