Glasgow & West Scotland

South Lanarkshire Council asbestos ruling 'ends uncertainty'

A council has been held liable over the death of a man it never employed in a ruling which lawyers say removes a "black hole" around asbestos claims.

David Bavaird died in 2008 - 12 years after South Lanarkshire Council assumed the liabilities of his ex-employer, the East Kilbride Development Corporation.

The council's case that it was not liable as he was not ill in 1996 was rejected at the Court of Session.

His family's lawyers said defeat may have meant other claims failed too.

The court heard that Mr Bavaird was exposed to asbestos during his employment with the corporation in the 1960s.

Liability transfer

The corporation was wound up in 1996 and its legal liabilities were transferred to South Lanarkshire Council.

Mr Bavaird, who was from East Kilbride, died of the asbestos-related lung disease, mesothelioma, in 2008.

His family subsequently raised an action against the council and other bodies.

A previous ruling at the outer house of the Court of Session in October last year upheld the council's case that it was not liable.

This ruling has now been overturned by the inner house judges, Lady Paton sitting with Lord Drummond Young and Lord Marnoch.

Following the ruling, Laura Blane, from Thompsons Solicitors, who represented Mr Bavaird's family, said: "Had the Court of Session not allowed this appeal, then Mr Bavaird's family, together with many hundreds of other asbestos victims would have been staring into a black hole as far as compensation is concerned.

"The council entities who employed men like Mr Bavaird in the 50s, 60s and 70s are no longer in existence to be sued and if the current local authorities had been found not to be responsible for the liabilities of their predecessors, then there would be no redress available to those exposed to asbestos and suffering the devastating consequences.

"The decision has even wider implications however, and extends to all public bodies where parliament has intervened in their structures, such as the recent creation of a single police force and fire service in Scotland."

'Tragic death'

Paul Manning, executive director of finance and corporate resources at South Lanarkshire Council, said: "The tragic death of a father and husband was at the centre of this court case, and our sympathies are with David Bavaird's family.

"This was a highly complex case, as was reflected by Lord Brailsford's earlier ruling that the council could not be held liable.

"Mr Bavaird worked for a number of employers, including East Kilbride Development Corporation 33 years before he was diagnosed with mesothelioma and 22 years before South Lanarkshire Council even came into existence.

Speaking after the decision Mr Bavaird's son Derek said: "This is a landmark decision and one in the eye for the council. It's been a disgrace how they have tried to slip out of their responsibilities.

"Just because my dad didn't have mesothelioma in 1996 doesn't mean the asbestos wasn't already in his body causing harm.

"This victory today is justice for my dad and in many ways justice for the other men who died before they could bring their cases."

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