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Home > What We Do > 90 years of Law > 1960s Highlights

1960s Higlights

Pneumoconiosis and asbestos diseases. The fight to overcome time limit defences.

Cartledge v E Jopling & Sons Ltd (1963)

In Cartledge v E Jopling & Sons Ltd (1963) a workman had contracted pneumoconiosis by inhaling noxious dust before 1950. In 1955 he discovered that his lungs had been damaged. The courts were "forced" by the operation of the limitation rules to reject the accident claim because it was not brought within 3 years of the date the damage was caused, even though there was no way of him knowing at the time that any damage had occurred.

The Cartledge case led directly to the Limitation Act 1963. Amongst other things, it provided that time did not begin to run until the material facts of a decisive nature were known.

Much litigation followed and a series of test cases were pursued. The cases were handled by Tony Woolf, a senior lawyer with WH Thompson, and probably the country's leading expert on limitation in disease cases.

Pickles case

In the Pickles case , Mr Pickles worked as a miner from 1947 to 1960 before leaving the industry to become a lathe operator. In February 1966 he became ill with chest trouble and in September 1966 he was told by his doctor that he suffered silicosis from his work underground. Because of some delay in processing the form, the relevant application to the court under the 1963 Act for leave to bring court proceedings was not made until more than 12 months after the date of diagnosis.

The Court of Appeal found in Mr Pickles favour. He had, they found, taken all action as was reasonable for him to take, and the application to the court was made within 12 months of the date he was advised that he might have a legal claim against the Board. Lord Denning commented that this was "one more case on this very complicated and obscure Act"

Dodd case

In the Dodd case , Mr Dodd was exposed to asbestos from 1952 to 1965 in circumstances where the company was clearly at fault. He was diagnosed with an asbestos disease in January 1964, awarded disablement benefit in 1965 and left the company's employment in September 1965 to avoid further exposure. However, he did not know that he could bring a claim for damages having been told by the works manager that if he got asbestosis there was a panel which would pay compensation "but you can't sue your employers".

In 1967 he consulted WH Thompson on learning that a fellow workman was bringing a claim. The company contested the claim on the basis that it was out of time.

By a majority of 3 to 2, the House of Lords found in Mr Dodd's favour saying that he did not have knowledge of a material fact - that he had a legal remedy against the employer - until April 1967.

The result of these landmark decisions was that large numbers of workers who would otherwise have had their cases dismissed on grounds of being brought out of time were able to bring legal proceedings for their diseases and recover compensation.

Mr Dodd's case was a stunning example of the lengths to which the insurers would (and will today) go to avoid payment even where they accept that the employers were to blame and had been in flagrant breach of the safety regulations designed to protect workers. A similar example was seen in more recent times in the Fairchild litigation in which Thompsons also played a part.

The Dodd case remained the leading authority on the interpretation of the 1963 Act until it was replaced by a new Act in 1980.

Both cases served to accelerate the drive for compensation for the victims of dust disease

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