Church v Ministry of Defence: QBD 23 Feb 1984

The 62 year old claimant sought damages after working in in the defendant’s dockyard and being exposed to asbestos. Pleural plaques were apparent on X-ray and the pleura would constrict the lung and induce breathlessness; and the asbestos must have passed through the lung to reach the pleura so that it was probable that there was some concurrent fibrosis. It was probable that there would be no future deterioration ‘but there is undeniably a substantial risk that, the condition having been stable for many years, there will suddenly be a marked progression of lung fibrosis with consequent effect on breathing and on health’. There was an extremely small risk of mesothelioma. For his part the claimant had worried ‘very considerably’. The defendant submitted that this dod not amount to injury. It was ‘undeniable that some physiological injury has been done’ but it was symptomless and unlikely to lead to future incapacity. The damage to the pleura and any damage to the lung should be regarded as minimal. No damages should be awarded for anxiety: it was not substantial and was not ‘attached’ to some physical cause. He cited Cartledge v E. Jopling.
Held: The cliam succeeded. The pleural plaques had to be considered in conjunction with damage that had probably been caused to the lungs; he could not, therefore, regard the damage as minimal. He regarded anxiety as the natural consequence of the radiological finding, so that it was justifiably ‘considerable’ for some months. Saying ‘I do not think I can rate the damages as being very substantial in this case’, he made a final award of andpound;1,500 general damages


Pain J


Unreported, 23 February 1984, (1984) 134 NLJ 623


England and Wales

Cited by:

CitedRothwell v Chemical and Insulating Co Ltd and Another CA 26-Jan-2006
Each claimant sought damages after being exposed to asbestos dust. The defendants resisted saying that the injury alleged, the development of pleural plaques, was yet insufficient as damage to found a claim.
Held: (Smith LJ dissenting) The . .
CitedSykes v Ministry of Defence QBD 19-Mar-1984
The claimant was exposed to asbestos whilst working for the defendant in the naval dockyard at Portsmouth, and sought damages having developed pleural plaques, but no further damage was expected, save ‘a slightly increased risk of developing a lung . .
CitedJohnston v NEI International Combustion Ltd; Rothwell v Chemical and Insulating Co Ltd; similar HL 17-Oct-2007
The claimant sought damages for the development of neural plaques, having been exposed to asbestos while working for the defendant. The presence of such plaques were symptomless, and would not themselves cause other asbestos related disease, but . .
CitedAXA General Insurance Ltd and Others v Lord Advocate and Others SC 12-Oct-2011
Standing to Claim under A1P1 ECHR
The appellants had written employers’ liability insurance policies. They appealed against rejection of their challenge to the 2009 Act which provided that asymptomatic pleural plaques, pleural thickening and asbestosis should constitute actionable . .
CitedMinistry of Defence v AB and Others SC 14-Mar-2012
The respondent Ministry had, in 1958, conducted experimental atmospheric explosions of atomic weapons. The claimants had been obliged as servicemen to observe the explosions, and appealed against dismissal of their claims for radiation sickness . .
Lists of cited by and citing cases may be incomplete.

Personal Injury

Updated: 25 May 2022; Ref: scu.238193