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Chandler v Cape Plc [2012] [2012] EWCA Civ 525; [2012] 1 WLR 3111; [2012] 3 All ER 640

By Oxbridge Law TeamUpdated 16/03/2024 12:52

Judgement for the case Chandler v Cape Plc

KEY POINTS

  • Negligence arises when a party fails to exercise reasonable care, resulting in harm or injury to another party.

    • In occupational safety, the duty of care is a fundamental principal employers owe to their employees. 

    • This duty encompasses providing a safe and healthy work environment to prevent harm or injury.

  • In a scenario involving an employee contracting asbestosis after exposure to asbestos dust at work, questions arise about the duty of care owed by the employer.

    • The complexity deepens when the employer is a subsidiary company, and the parent company is aware of the risks associated with the nature of the work.

  • In such cases, legal considerations include whether the parent company assumes responsibility for the employees of its subsidiary. 

    • There is the question of whether the duty of care extends from the subsidiary to the parent company, specifically in advising on a safe work system.

    • This raises broader inquiries into the overall responsibility and liability of the company owing to the duty of care to its employees.

  • The intertwining elements of negligence, duty of care, and the relationship between a parent company and its subsidiary become crucial in determining legal obligations and potential liabilities concerning the well-being of employees exposed to occupational hazards.

FACTS

  • David Brian Chandler ("Claimant") worked as a brick loader for a subsidiary of Cape Building Products Ltd ("Defendant") company from 1959 to 1961 to 1962.

  • The workplace, where asbestos was produced in an open-sided factory, led to dust migration into the claimant's area.

    • After fifty years, the claimant developed asbestosis and filed a claim against Cape plc ("Defendant"), alleging a direct duty of care to advise or ensure a safe working system for subsidiary employees.

    • The Defendant acknowledged the subsidiary's failure in duty, as it had been dissolved.

  • During the trial, it was revealed that the Defendant employed a group medical adviser and a scientific officer responsible for employee health and asbestos dust suppression, respectively.

    • The Defendant's board discussed and authorized many aspects of the production process during the Claimant's employment with the subsidiary.

  • Based on this evidence, the trial judge concluded that there was sufficient proximity between the Claimant and the Defendant to impose a duty of care.

  • The judge deemed it fair, just, and reasonable to hold the Defendant accountable for protecting the Claimant from harm caused by the atmosphere of asbestos.

  • The case was appealled by the Defendant.

JUDGEMENT

  • On appeal, the court dismissed the Defendant's case, ruling that a duty of intervention arises when a relationship imposes responsibility.

    • While acknowledging the separate status of a subsidiary and its parent company, the court emphasized that absolute control is not required for a duty of care.

    • In this case, the law might hold a parent company responsible for the health and safety of subsidiary employees if their businesses are significantly similar.

  • Given the Defendant's knowledge of the Claimant's workplace and superior understanding of asbestos risks, the court concluded the Defendant had a duty of care.

    • This duty involved advising the subsidiary on a safe work system or ensuring its implementation.

    • The failure to provide such advice resulted in injury to the Claimant.

COMMENTARY

  • The case underscores the legal complexities of negligence and duty of care in occupational safety, especially when a subsidiary is involved.

  • Despite the subsidiary's dissolution, the court found the parent company had a duty of care, emphasizing that control isn't mandatory for such obligations. 

  • The court's decision on appeal reaffirms the idea that relationships can impose responsibility, holding the parent company accountable for harm due to its failure to advise on or ensure a safe work system.

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Tort Law Notes
1,070 total pages
847 purchased

Tort Law notes fully updated for recent exams at Oxford and Cambridge. ...