Rothwell 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 defendants appeals succeeded. The claimants had three possible claims, none of which on their own would amount to a basis for a claim, and the three could not be aggregated to construct a claim. Pleural plaques are the most common development from exposure to asbestos, but are themselves symptomless. They are a necessary pre-condition to the development later of other asbestos related conditions. Negligence is actionable only on proof of damage. Though historically liability had been found for pleural plaques, this was a matter of policy, and the law had changed since Cartledge v Jopling: ‘there is no legal precedent in this country, beyond first instance decisions, for aggregating three heads of claim which, individually, could not found a cause of action, so as to constitute sufficient damage to give rise to a legal claim. ‘ As to the claims for anxiety: ‘Anxiety is a form of psychiatric prejudice that is less serious than one of the recognised forms of psychiatric injury. The law does not recognise a duty to take reasonable care not to cause anxiety. It does not even recognise a duty to take reasonable care not to cause psychiatric injury. Control mechanisms, the creatures of policy, restrict the circumstances in which a defendant will be liable for causing foreseeable psychiatric injury. ‘


Longmore LJ, Smith LJ, Lord Phillips CJ


[2006] EWCA Civ 27, [2006] ICR 1458, Times 31-Jan-2006, [2006] 4 All ER 1161, (2006) 90 BMLR 88




England and Wales


CitedLynch v Knight HL 17-Jul-1861
Lord Wensleydale said: ‘Mental pain or anxiety the law cannot value, and does not pretend to redress, when the unlawful act complained of causes that alone; though where material damage occurs, and is connected with it, it is impossible a jury, in . .
Appeal fromRothwell v Chemical and Insulating Co Ltd and Another QBD 15-Feb-2005
The claimant had been exposed to asbestos whilst employed by the defendant and sought damages for the pleural plaques which had developed as a consequence. The defendant replied that such plaques and pleural thickening were not a sufficient injury . .
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 . .
CitedFairchild 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 . .
CitedCartledge v E Jopling and Sons Ltd CA 1962
The court gave guidance on when an injury passes from being de minimis to being sufficiently significant to found a cause of action: ‘there is from the beginning some injury occurring from day to day, as each of the minute particles which enter the . .
CitedCartledge v E Jopling and Sons Ltd HL 1963
The plaintiffs were steel dressers who, in the course of their employment, had inhaled quantities of noxious dust which had caused them to suffer from pneumoconiosis. They issued proceedings on 1 October 1956 but were unable to show any breach of . .
CitedPage v Smith HL 12-May-1995
The plaintiff was driving his car when the defendant turned into his path. Both cars suffered considerable damage but the drivers escaped physical injury. The Plaintiff had a pre-existing chronic fatigue syndrome, which manifested itself from time . .
CitedChurch 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 . .
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 . .
MentionedDarley Main Colliery Co v Mitchell HL 1886
The owner of land whose land was affected by subsidence in 1868 and who received compensation from those who had worked coal and caused the subsidence, was able, in 1882 when further subsidence took place causing further injury, to bring a fresh . .
MentionedPirelli General Cable Works v Oscar Faber and Partners HL 2-Jan-1983
The plaintiff asked the defendant consulting engineer to design an extension to their factory in 1969. Not later than in April 1970, cracks developed in the chimney. In 1977 the cause of the damage was discovered. It arose from design faults in the . .
CitedAlcock and Others v Chief Constable of South Yorkshire Police HL 28-Nov-1991
The plaintiffs sought damages for nervous shock. They had watched on television, as their relatives and friends, 96 in all, died at a football match, for the safety of which the defendants were responsible. The defendant police service had not . .
CitedPatterson v Ministry of Defence QBD 29-Jul-1986
The plaintiff had been exposed to asbestos when working for the defendant. X-rays revealed development of pleural plaques, but these would remain asymptomatic.
Held: Material damage sufficient to set time running was the same as damage . .
CitedBittles v Harland and Wolffe Plc and a W Hamilton and Co Ltd NIHC 24-May-2000
‘In a case such as the present where the plaintiff has been exposed to and has inhaled asbestos dust as a result of the defendant’s negligence and has in consequence developed pleural plaques, the development of the pleural plaques even if . .
CitedGibson v McAndrew Wormald and Co Ltd 1998
Pleural plaques constituted an identifiable injury for which damages were recoverable. . .
CitedDulieu v White and Sons KBD 1901
A pregnant barmaid suffered nervous shock causing her to give premature birth as a result of the tortfeasor’s horse van bursting into her bar at the Bonner Arms in Bethnal Green from the roadway. The defendant pleaded that the damages claimed were . .
CitedKing v Phillips CA 1952
Denning LJ said: ‘there can be no doubt since Bourhill v. Young that the test of liability for shock is foreseeability of injury by shock.’ A person ‘who suffers shock on being told of an accident to a loved one cannot recover damages from the . .
CitedMcLoughlin v O’Brian HL 6-May-1982
The plaintiff was the mother of a child who died in an horrific accident, in which her husband and two other children were also injured. She was at home at the time of the accident, but went to the hospital immediately when she had heard what had . .
CitedWhite, Frost and others v Chief Constable of South Yorkshire and others HL 3-Dec-1998
No damages for Psychiatric Harm Alone
The House considered claims by police officers who had suffered psychiatric injury after tending the victims of the Hillsborough tragedy.
Held: The general rules restricting the recovery of damages for pure psychiatric harm applied to the . .
CitedCreutzfeld Jakob Disease Litigation; Newman and Others v Medical Research Council and Another CA 20-Dec-1997
The claimants had been negligently injected as children with Hartree HGH, a human growth hormone that exposed them to the risk of contracting CJD. One issue was whether this rendered the defendants liable for psychiatric illness caused by the shock . .
CitedHartman v South Essex Mental Health and Community Care NHS Trust etc CA 19-Jan-2005
The court considered the liability of employers for stress injury to several employees.
Held: Though the principles of awarding damages for stress related psychiatric injury are the same as those for physical injury, the issues have still . .
CitedFletcher v The Commissioners of Public Works in Ireland 21-Feb-2003
(Irish Supreme Court) . .
CitedSutherland v Hatton; Barber v Somerset County Council and similar CA 5-Feb-2002
Defendant employers appealed findings of liability for personal injuries consisting of an employee’s psychiatric illness caused by stress at work.
Held: Employers have a duty to take reasonable care for the safety of their employees. There are . .
CitedBarber v Somerset County Council HL 1-Apr-2004
A teacher sought damages from his employer after suffering a work related stress breakdown.
Held: The definition of the work expected of him did not justify the demand placed upon him. The employer could have checked up on him during his . .

Cited by:

CitedFrench and others v Chief Constable of Sussex Police CA 28-Mar-2006
The claimants sought damages for psychiatric injury. They were police officers who had been subject to unsuccessful proceedings following a shooting of a member of the public by their force.
Held: The claim failed: ‘these claimants have no . .
CitedCape Plc and Others, Re Companies Act 1985 ChD 16-Jun-2006
The court was asked to sanction a scheme of arrangements, and particularly to approve a proposed scheme which itself contained the power to make amendments to the scheme.
Held: The court did have power to sanction such a proposed scheme of . .
Appeal fromJohnston 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 . .
Lists of cited by and citing cases may be incomplete.

Personal Injury, Negligence

Updated: 19 November 2022; Ref: scu.238135