In the recent case of Chandler v Cape Plc, [2011 EWHC 951 (QB) the question of whether the employee of a subsidiary could be owed a duty of care by the parent company of the subsidiary was put to test.

Mr Chandler was employed by Cape Building Products Ltd from 1959-1962 where he was exposed to asbestos dust but was sadly diagnosed with Asbestosis in 2007.  He took advice from solicitors with regard to making a legal claim and following investigation it was established that Cape Building Products Ltd had gone out of business and no insurance policy could be found under which he could claim.

Mr Chandler took the step of issuing court proceedings against Cape Plc, the parent company of Cape Building Products Ltd on the basis that the companies were joint tortfeasers and therefore jointly and severally liable to pay his claim.

The Court applied the test laid down in Caparo Industries Plc v Dickman (1990) 2 AC 605 HL.  Firstly, Mr Chandler had to prove ‘foreseeability’. The court found Cape Plc had actual knowledge of Mr Chandler’s working conditions and the risk of an asbestos related disease from exposure to asbestos dust was evident. Secondly, the Court found that because Cape Plc employed Safety and Medical Officers with responsibity for health and safety issues, they retained overall responsibility for the health and safety of their own and their subsidiaries employees, this satisfied the test of ‘proximity’.  The Court then confirmed that in its opinion it was fair, just and reasonable for a duty to be imposed on Cape Plc to pay Mr Chandler’s claim.

This is a helpful case to Claimants seeking compensation from large group companies who have caused them to develop asbestos related disease, however each case must be analysed carefully on its own merits in order to establish the practices of the organisation.  Evidence must be found in order to establish a duty of care before litigation is embarked upon to ensure this important test is satisfied.

If you would like to discuss making an asbestos claim, call our  freephone number 0800 294 3065.