By Alex Kapadia
Michelin tyres have lost a High Court battle after a former worker sued for compensation after being exposed to asbestos dust at the companies Stoke plant 25 years ago.
Roy Ibbs, who suffers from a respiratory disease caused by exposure to asbestos, was awarded £23,000 in damages from the tyres manufacturer.
Now legal experts are predicting the High Court victory could open the floodgates for hundreds of former Michelin workers to sue for compensation after being exposed to asbestos dust.
Mr Ibbs, who was too poorly to attend the court hearing and give evidence earlier this week, worked for Michelin between 1969 and 1985 and was exposed to, “frequent and heavy” clouds of asbestos dust, according to his barrister Colin McCaul QC.
The 78-year-old now suffers from asbestosis, as well as a respiratory disability which leaves him breathless.
He lives with an increased risk of developing mesothelioma, an incurable cancer of the lining of the lungs, and asbestos related lung cancer.
Mr Justice Mackay said married Mr Ibbs, “is unable to play as active a role as he would like in the life of his family” due to his health problems.
The judge said he would have awarded the 78-year-old a larger claim had he not been suffering from two other conditions, neither of which are attributable to asbestos exposure.
Mr McCaul, said: “In order to develop asbestosis, you need to have been exposed to a significant amount of asbestos dust.
“There must have been a significant amount of dust at the factory. It’s probably fair to say there were former colleagues exposed to the same conditions.
“The exposure seems to have come from maintenance work on pipes layered with asbestos.”
Mr Ibbs, who declined to comment, worked at the company’s Campbell Road, Stoke, factory, from the 1960s, when it employed more than 9,000 workers.
Michelin issued a statement saying: “Michelin would like to take this opportunity to reassure anyone working in the tyre industry that asbestos has never been used as a component in the tyre manufacturing process.”
The statement continued: “Michelin regrets the unfortunate illness of Mr Ibbs, which was reported in The Sentinel newspaper on Saturday 17 April, and is fully committed to the safety and welfare of its employees.
“This case was due to exposure to asbestos more than 25 years ago and was related to the fabric of the building – a problem shared by many other companies at that time.
“As soon as the health hazards of asbestos were recognised, many years ago, Michelin took action to ensure a safe working environment for its employees.”