Court documents show UK asbestos maker withheld information on material risks

Documents saved from destruction as part of legal action taken by the Asbestos Victims Support Groups Forum UK (the Forum), have revealed the company hsj Intermediate Holdings Limited (Cape), knew of the high risk of fatal cancer caused by the use and handling of Asbestos Insulation Board, also known as Asbestolux.

The documents originate from litigation brought against Cape on behalf of insurers by who had settled employers’ liability claims resulting from workers’ exposure to asbestos, and who wanted to recoup some of their outlay.

The documents state that “a caution label on our products and none on [our competitors’] would make our selling efforts most difficult”. This showed that Cape, an asbestos products manufacturer, dismissed the idea of a warning label due to concerns about profitability. They also state that in 1969, Cape’s group medical adviser accepted that mesothelioma could be caused by “short and possibly small” exposure and that “no type of asbestos proved innocent”.

The case was settled before judgment, but Graham Dring, the then Chair of the Forum, successfully fought a three-year battle for the Forum to access the court documents. Cape resisted disclosure, taking the case to the Supreme Court, but Dring succeeded in setting a legal precedent allowing written material placed before a court to be seen by a non-party.

In light of the information in the documents, the Forum is demanding that Cape apologise and make a £10m donation towards mesothelioma research. Joanne Gordon, Chair of the Forum said: “The Forum is now demanding Cape donate £10 million towards mesothelioma research. We believe victims and their families deserve this by way of an apology from Cape for their deliberate deception and shamelessly causing deaths, adding insult by vehemently defending cases.”

The Forum has now launched the Cape Must Pay campaign – details of how you can support this campaign can be found at www.asbestosforum.org.uk/cape-case/

To view the Cape documents, visit www.asbestosforum.org.uk/cape-documents/

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