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Written on 26th March 2020 by Laura Magson

Boyes Turner’s asbestos and mesothelioma claims team have achieved a settlement for a former docker in a fiercely contested and complicated case.

Our client, James, was a former docker with the National Dock Labour Board who had unloaded sacks of asbestos from ships twice a year over an employment period of about 24 years. He contacted us in 2011, believing that he had been diagnosed with a compensatable asbestos-related disease. Our investigations revealed that he was suffering from pleural plaques which, although indicative of previous asbestos exposure, are no longer compensatable in English law. His claim could not be progressed at that time.

James contacted Boyes Turner again a few years later when he believed his condition had deteriorated and he was now suffering from asbestosis. He was awarded Industrial Injuries Disablement Benefit for asbestosis and our medical investigations confirmed a diagnosis of mild fibrosis which, on the balance of probabilities was sufficient to indicate asbestosis. 

Limitation time limits

A claimant only has three years from the date that he knew or should have known that he was suffering from a compensatable asbestos-related disease to issue court proceedings to pursue a claim. This three-year deadline is known as the limitation period and, in a mentally competent adult, can only be extended in certain circumstances or with the permission of the court. Although our medical expert believed the medical records showed that James’ asbestosis symptoms began in 2015 (the claimant’s ‘date of knowledge’), we expected the defendant to challenge the claim using a limitation defence, particularly if their own medical expert took a different view about when James would first have experienced symptoms. We issued proceedings immediately to protect our client’s interests.   

Claim defended on limitation, liability and causation

The defendant contested the claim, asserting that James’ symptoms and therefore his date of knowledge arose in 2009 or at the latest 2012 and denying that they were liable for his injury. We obtained an engineering report which supported our client’s claim in relation to liability and we secured a court judgment on this point, subject to the outcome of further hearings in relation to limitation, medical causation and the value of the claim. Causation was contested on the basis that even though the defendant argued that James had ‘knowledge’ of his compensatable condition in 2009, they still denied that his fibrosis was asbestosis and that he had a compensatable condition.

Whilst waiting for the limitation hearing to be listed at the Royal Courts of Justice, the defendant made an offer to settle the claim, which James accepted, bringing the claim to a successful conclusion.

For further information about claims for asbestosis, please contact the mesothelioma and asbestos claims team by email at