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Backing for ‘low level’ asbestos exposure payouts Two families have won groundbreaking claims for compensation after loved ones died from cancer caused by exposure to "low level" asbestos. The Supreme Court ruled in favour of the relatives of Dianne Willmore and Enid Costello, who both suffered malignant mesothelioma. Mrs Willmore, from North Wales, was exposed to asbestos while a school pupil, and died in 2009, aged 49. Mrs Costello was exposed to asbestos while working as a secretary at Greif (UK) Ltd. She died in 2006, aged 74. Mrs Willmore died the day after a judge ruled she was entitled to £240,000 compensation. The award, made against Knowsley Council for negligently exposing her to asbestos fibres, was frozen while the authority appealed against the decision. The mother-of-two contracted the cancer after being exposed to asbestos dust while at Bowring School in Huyton, in the 1970s. The council and Greif had argued they could only be held liable if it could be proved they were responsible for causing exposure to asbestos that had at least “doubled the risk” of mesothelioma. But seven Supreme Court justices unanimously rejected the argument, echoing High Court and Appeal Court decisions, and ruled there was no requirement for a claimant to show a doubling of risk. Whether exposure was too insignificant to be taken into account was a matter for the trial judge on the facts of each particular case, they ruled. Ruth Davies, solicitor for Mrs Willmore's husband Barre, said: “These cases were another attack on asbestos disease victims. The defendants were trying to change the law that has been working perfectly well for many years so that fewer people who are dying can get properly compensated.” Tony Whitston, chair of the Asbestos Victims Support Groups‟ Forum, said: “Arguments for a „safe‟ threshold are everything to do with denying liability for compensation and nothing to do with protecting people. This case not only protects compensation for those who have been negligently exposed to low levels of asbestos, but also gives a warning to those who think that workplaces such as schools, which are heavily contaminated with asbestos, are low risk.” The Supreme Court press summary [pdf] and full judgment [pdf]. John Pickering Solicitors news release. Asbestos Forum news release [pdf]. Asbestos in Schools news release. BBC News Online. Liverpool Daily News. Daily Post. Solicitors Journal. The Independent.
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