Fairchild v Glenhaven Funeral Services Ltd and Others: HL 20 Jun 2002

The claimants suffered mesothelioma after contact with asbestos while at work. Their employers pointed to several employments which might have given rise to the condition, saying it could not be clear which particular employment gave rise to the condition. The claimants appealed dismissal of their claim.
Held: It is for a claimant to prove that a defendant’s breach of duty caused the loss for which he claims. The situation as it stood created substantial injustice. The Court of Appeal had applied the conventional test of whether it could be shown that the condition would not have been suffered but for the employment. The overall object of tort law was to define cases in which the law might justly hold one party liable to compensate another. This case raised inconsistent policy considerations. In such circumstances justice could only be served by holding both possible sources of the disease responsible.
Lord Bingham said: ‘In a personal injury action based on negligence or breach of statutory duty the claimant seeks to establish a breach by the defendant of a duty owed to the claimant, which has caused him damage. For the purposes of analysis, and for the purpose of pleading, proving and resolving the claim, lawyers find it convenient to break the claim into its constituent elements: the duty, the breach, the damage and the causal connection between the breach and the damage. In the generality of personal injury actions, it is of course true that the claimant is required to discharge the burden of showing that the breach of which he complains caused the damage for which claims and to do so by showing that but for the breach he would not have suffered the damage.’
Lord Nicholls of Birkenhead spoke of new departures in the law: ‘To be acceptable the law must be coherent. It must be principled. The basis on which one case, or one type of case, is distinguished from another should be transparent and capable of identification. When a decision departs from principles normally applied, the basis for doing so must be rational and justifiable if the decision is to avoid the reproach that hard cases make bad law.’

Lord Bingham of Cornhill, Lord Nicholls of Birkenhead, Lord Hoffmann, Lord Hutton and Lord Rodger of Earlsferry
Times 21-Jun-2002, [2002] UKHL 22, [2003] 1 AC 32, [2002] Lloyds Rep Med 361, [2002] 3 All ER 305, [2002] PIQR P28, (2002) 67 BMLR 90, [2002] 3 WLR 89, [2002] ICR 798
House of Lords, Bailii
England and Wales
CitedMcGhee v National Coal Board HL 1973
The claimant who was used to emptying pipe kilns at a brickworks was sent to empty brick kilns where the working conditions were much hotter and dustier. His employers failed, in breach of their duty, to provide him with washing facilities after his . .
ApprovedWilsher v Essex Area Health Authority HL 24-Jul-1986
A premature baby suffered injury after mistaken treatment by a hospital doctor. He had inserted a monitor into the umbilical vein. The claimant suggested the treatment should have been by a more senior doctor. The hospital appealed a finding that it . .
ApprovedBonnington Castings Ltd v Wardlaw HL 1-Mar-1956
The injury of which the employee complained came from two sources, a pneumatic hammer, in respect of which the employers were not in breach of the relevant Regulations; and swing grinders, in respect of which they were in breach.
Held: It had . .
Appeal fromFairchild v Glenhaven Funeral Services Ltd and Others, Dyson and Another v Leeds City Counci CA 11-Dec-2001
Where a claimant suffered mesothelioma, contracted whilst working with asbestos, but the disease may have been contracted from inhalation at different times, and with different employers, his claim must fail since it was not possible to identify . .
CitedChapman v Hearse, Baker v Willoughby HL 26-Nov-1969
The plaintiff, a pedestrian had been struck by the defendant’s car while crossing the road. The plaintiff had negligently failed to see the defendant’s car approaching. The defendant had a clear view of the plaintiff prior to the collision, but was . .
CitedEmpress Car Company (Abertillery) Ltd v National Rivers Authority HL 22-Jan-1998
A diesel tank was in a yard which drained into a river. It was surrounded by a bund to contain spillage, but that protection was over ridden by an extension pipe from the tank to a drum outside the bund. Someone opened a tap on that pipe so that . .
CitedKuwait Airways Corporation v Iraqi Airways Company and Others (Nos 4 and 5) HL 16-May-2002
After the invasion of Kuwait, the Iraqi government had dissolved Kuwait airlines, and appropriated several airplanes. Four planes were destroyed by Allied bombing, and 6 more were appropriated again by Iran.
Held: The appeal failed. No claim . .
CitedRahman v Arearose Limited and Another, University College London, NHS Trust CA 15-Jun-2000
The claimant had suffered a vicious physical assault from which the claimant’s employers should have protected him, and an incompetently performed surgical operation. Three psychiatrists agreed that the aetiology of the claimant’s very severe . .
CitedNicholson v Atlas Steel Foundry and Engineering Co Ltd HL 1957
The deceased had worked in the defender’s steel foundry, inhaling there siliceous dust particles. He contracted pneumoconiosis and died. The complaints related to the defender’s failure to provide adequate ventilation to extract the dust. The . .
CitedGardiner v Motherwell Machinery and Scrap Co Ltd HL 1961
The pursuer had worked for the defenders for three months, demolishing buildings, and had contracted dermatitis. He claimed that they had not provided him with adequate washing facilities and that failure caused the dermatitis. On appeal the . .

Cited by:
CitedSix Continents Retail Ltd v Carford Catering Ltd, R Bristoll Ltd CA 5-Nov-2003
The claimant’s premises had been destroyed by fire. They sought damages from the designers for negligence. . .
CitedCoudert Brothers v Normans Bay Limited (Formerly Illingworth, Morris Limited) CA 27-Feb-2004
The respondent had lost its investment in a Russian development, and the appellants challenged a finding that they had been negligent in their advice with regard to the offer documents.
Held: As to the basis of calculation of damages as to a . .
CitedDonachie v The Chief Constable of the Greater Manchester Police CA 7-Apr-2004
The claimant had been asked to work under cover. The surveillance equipment he was asked to use was faulty, requiring him to put himself at risk repeatedly to maintain it resulting in a stress disorder and a stroke.
Held: There was a direct . .
CitedChester v Afshar HL 14-Oct-2004
The claimant suffered back pain for which she required neurosurgery. The operation was associated with a 1-2% risk of the cauda equina syndrome, of which she was not warned. She went ahead with the surgery, and suffered that complication. The . .
CitedGregg v Scott HL 27-Jan-2005
The patient saw his doctor and complained about a lump under his arm. The doctor failed to diagnose cancer. It was nine months before treatment was begun. The claimant sought damages for the reduction in his prospects of disease-free survival for . .
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 . .
CitedAD and OH (A Child) v Bury Metropolitan Borough Council CA 17-Jan-2006
The claimants, mother and son, sought damages from the respondent after they had commenced care proceedings resulting in the son being taken into temporary care. The authority had wrongly suspected abuse. The boy was later found to suffer brittle . .
CitedBarker v Corus (UK) Plc HL 3-May-2006
The claimants sought damages after contracting meselothemia working for the defendants. The defendants argued that the claimants had possibly contracted the disease at any one or more different places. The Fairchild case set up an exception to the . .
CitedBrett v University of Reading CA 14-Feb-2007
The deceased’s personal representative sought damages after the death from mesothelioma after working for the defendant for many years. . .
CitedRolls Royce Industrial Power (India) Ltd v Cox CA 22-Nov-2007
The claimant was the widow of a man who died from mesothelioma after alleged asbestos contamination working for the appellant. The defendant appealed on liability saying that there was insufficient evidence of causation since there was little to . .
CitedAshley and Another v Chief Constable of Sussex Police HL 23-Apr-2008
The claimants sought to bring an action for damages after a family member suspected of dealing drugs, was shot by the police. At the time he was naked. The police officer had been acquitted by a criminal court of murder. The chief constable now . .
CitedEnvironment Agency v Ellis CA 17-Oct-2008
The claimant was injured working for the appellants. The appellants now appealed the finding that they were responsible saying that other factors contributed to the injury, and in particular that he had fallen at home. The claimant said that that . .
CitedSanderson v Hull CA 5-Nov-2008
Insufficient proof of cause of infection
The claimant worked as a turkey plucker. She caught an infection (campylobacter enteritis) at work, and the employer now appealed against a finding of liability. The employer said that the only necessary protection was regular washing of hands. The . .
CitedWootton v J Docter Ltd and Another CA 19-Dec-2008
The claimant sought damages saying that the contraceptive pill dispensed by the defendant was not the one prescribed by her doctor, and that she had become pregnant and suffered the losses claimed namely care, expenses and loss of earnings flowing . .
CitedHalsey v Milton Keynes General NHS Trust etc CA 11-May-2004
The court considered the effect on costs orders of a refusal to take part in alternate dispute resolution procedures. The defendant Trust had refused to take the dispute to a mediation. In neither case had the court ordered or recommended ADR.
CitedSienkiewicz v Greif (UK) Ltd; Knowsley Metropolitan Borough Council v Willmore SC 9-Mar-2011
The Court considered appeals where defendants challenged the factual basis of findings that they had contributed to the causes of the claimant’s Mesothelioma, and in particular to what extent a court can satisfactorily base conclusions of fact on . .
AppliedWillmore v Knowsley Metropolitan Borough Council QBD 24-Jul-2009
The claimant sought damages for personal injury, saying that she had now contracted mesolthelioma having been exposed to asbestos whilst a pupil at a school run by the defendant’s predecessors.
Held: The authority was liable. . .
CitedSutton v Syston Rugby Football Club Ltd CA 20-Oct-2011
Rugby Field Inspection Adequate not detailed
The claimant was injured training for rugby. His knee was hurt by a sharp object left behind by previous users, but almost hidden. He said that the defendants were negligent in not having inspected the pitch before training. The club appealed saying . .
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 . .
CitedEmployers’ Liability Insurance ‘Trigger’ Litigation: BAI (Run Off) Ltd v Durham and Others SC 28-Mar-2012
The court considered the liability of insurers of companies now wound up for mesothelioma injuries suffered by former employees of those companies, and in particular whether the 1930 Act could be used to impose liability. The insurers now appealed . .
CitedEmployers’ Liability Policy ‘Trigger’ Litigation; Durham v BAI (Run off) Ltd etc QBD 21-Nov-2008
The court heard six claims against companies restored to the register of companies to make claims under their insurance policies for personal injury in the form of death from mesothelioma from asbestos, and particularly whether liability could be . .
CitedEmployers’ Liability Insurance ‘Trigger’ Litigation, Re CA 8-Oct-2010
Companies restored to the register, and the personal representatives of former employees, appealed against rejection of their claims from the insurers of the former companies for damages from mesothelioma following exposure to asbestos during . .
CitedZurich Insurance Plc UK Branch v International Energy Group Ltd SC 20-May-2015
A claim had been made for mesothelioma following exposure to asbestos, but the claim arose in Guernsey. Acknowledging the acute difficultis particular to the evidence in such cases, the House of Lords, in Fairchild. had introduced the Special Rule . .
CitedCampbell v Gordon SC 6-Jul-2016
The employee was injured at work, but in a way excluded from the employers insurance cover. He now sought to make the sole company director liable, hoping in term to take action against the director’s insurance brokers for negligence, the director . .
CitedWillers v Joyce and Another (Re: Gubay (Deceased) No 1) SC 20-Jul-2016
Parties had been involved in an action for wrongful trading. This was not persisted with but the claimant sought damages saying that the action was only part of a campaign to do him harm. This appeal raised the question whether the tort of malicious . .

Lists of cited by and citing cases may be incomplete.

Personal Injury, Health and Safety

Leading Case

Updated: 01 November 2021; Ref: scu.174011

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