Legal Victories for Asbestos Victims in France 

by Laurie Kazan-Allen



The amount of civil litigation initiated by French asbestos victims has dramatically increased in the last two years. Since a landmark victory in 1999 which found defendant corporation Everite guilty of "faute inexcusable" (outrageous misconduct), many injured workers have brought claims against former employers. The verdict of "faute inexcusable" more than doubles the amount of compensation awarded by the courts. In the last few months, parent companies such as Federal-Mogul, Saint Gobain and the shipbuilders Chantiers de l’Atlantique have been found guilty of asbestos exposure experienced by their workforce.

Federal-Mogul, the Michigan-based corporation which has been seriously undermined by the asbestos liabilities of its subsidiary T&N, Ltd., was sued by 13 former employees of Ferodo-Abex. Previously, the Beauvais Social Security Court had found the company guilty in 11 of the cases; the decision was upheld by the Court of Appeal in Amiens on April 25, 2001. Disability benefits for the successful plaintiffs were doubled; each also received a payment of FFr200,000 (£18,700/ $26,100). On the morning of June 21, the Social Security Court in Nantes decided that Chantiers de l’Atlantique was guilty of "faute inexcusable" for having exposed plaintiffs to asbestos during the 1960s. This ruling could open the floodgates to 700 additional claimants. Patrick Boissier, the Chairman of Les Chantiers de l’Atlantique, claims that before the 1970s, no one was aware of the dangers of working with asbestos. The verdict is being appealed. On the afternoon of June 21, the Court of Appeal in Paris issued a plaintiffs’ verdict for thirteen claimants who had suffered asbestos exposure while working as lecturers and laboratory technicians at Jussieu University’s Paris campus. Days later, a Paris Court ruled that Everite was negligent for having failed to take precautions at its insulation factory in Seine-et-Marne. Between 1917-1993, this facility employed 12,000 people. The judgment in this case set a precedent when it awarded compensation to widows and children of asbestos victims.

August 3, 2001



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