In a landmark case, the High Court has reduced the compensation payable to the widow of a man who died of lung cancer, after he was exposed to asbestos dust and fibres in the course of his work, because he smoked and that was judged to be a contributory factor in causing his cancer.
Reg Badger worked for the Ministry of Defence (MOD), between 1954 and 1987, as a boiler maker at Devonport Dockyard and also in Gibraltar. During that time he had been exposed to asbestos. He had also smoked since the age of 16.
Mr Justice Stanley Burnton said that Mr Badger could not be criticised for starting to smoke in 1955, because at that time the link between smoking and ill-health was not widely known. However, in 1971 health warnings on cigarette packages were introduced, so from that date the general public could be said to be aware of the potential dangers of smoking. Mr Badger was therefore negligent in failing to give up the habit.
On account of Mr Badger’s contributory negligence, the Court reduced the £149,000 compensation award payable by the MOD to Mr Badger’s widow by 20 per cent.