Claims for indirect and inadvertent exposure to asbestos have shown to have been on the rise within the last decade. This may be simply due to the deadly combination of an original lack of asbestos awareness and the long gestation period before asbestosis symptoms appear.

However, of increasing concern, is the many cases being presented where it is the family members who have been exposed to asbestos as a result of asbestos fibres being brought home in the hair or on work clothes – most typically, where the wife has washed the husband’s work clothes – and subsequently, contracted mesothelioma.

These types of cases where workmen, who were exposed to asbestos at their workplace and then inadvertently, exposed family members to asbestos at home are called secondary or familial cases of mesothelioma, and it is possible for family members to claim asbestos compensation as a result of contracting the disease.

However, claims for mesothelioma compensation are more difficult to succeed in, simply because the sufferer has not been directly exposed to asbestos at the defendant’s workplace. Nevertheless, it is established in law that the family members of workmen who suffer with mesothelioma can succeed in claims against the employer where they are able to show that the employers should have been aware it was foreseeable that the workmen would go home with asbestos on their clothes.

The date of knowledge for such cases is later than 1965 (being the date of knowledge for most mesothelioma claims), because it is stated that foreseeability for employers in these cases would have been later. In other words, whilst employers should have foreseen from 1965 that employees exposed to asbestos might suffer with mesothelioma, it took them a little longer to realise that family members of workmen exposed to asbestos were also at risk. The date of knowledge for making a ‘secondary’ mesothelioma claim is therefore, more likely to be the late 1960s.

However, each case will depend upon its own particular facts, and what a particular employer knew or should have known at the relevant time. There may be a strong argument that a company who has detailed knowledge of asbestos and its risks, could still have an earlier date of knowledge.