Barker v Saint Gobain Pipelines Plc [2004] EWCA Civ 545

Applicability of the Fairchild principle where the claimant is themselves potentially responsible and how damages ought subsequently be apportioned.


The claimant, Barker, developed lung cancer (malignant mesothelioma) following exposure to asbestos in the course of employment. Barker’s varied employment history included exposure to asbestos during his eight years working for the defendant, Saint Gobain Pipelines, during six weeks with a subsequent employer, and on three further occasions with different parties during a period of self-employment. Barker attempted to sue Saint Gobain Pipelines using the principle developed in Fairchild v Glenhaven Funeral Services [2002] UKHL 22.


First, whether the three occasions on which Barker had been exposed to asbestos during his period of self-employment limited the claimant’s ability to utilise the Fairchild principle, as the claimant was responsible for his own exposure on these cases. Secondly, how any blame ought be apportioned both in terms of liability and damages.


The Court of Appeal held that the principle developed in Fairchild was in fact applicable, and that the fact that the illness may have resulted from the claimant’s own actions did not serve to negate his right to claim for damages where the employer’s actions materially increased the risk of developing such an illness. Subsequently, to account for Barker’s period of self-employment, a reduction was made to the damages awarded, as per the 1945 Law Reform (Contributory Negligence) Act 1945. Notably, this decision would go on to be reversed in Barker v Corus UK [2006] UKHL 20.

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