HASAG Asbestos Disease Support is dedicated to supporting people affected by Asbestos-related diseases in the South, South East, London and the Home Counties.
On 28th July, the Court of Appeal handed down judgment in Paramount Shopfitting Company Ltd V Rix .
Mr Rix had contracted mesothelioma as a result of being exposed to asbestos while working for the Defendant as a much younger man and, following his diagnosis, he instructed Irwin Mitchell Solicitors to bring a claim on his behalf. His principal reason for seeking legal advice was to ensure that the business would be able to continue financially after his death in view of a large loan taken out to support the business in its future growth plans.
Sadly, Mr Rix sadly passed away at the age of 60 as a result of his mesothelioma, leaving behind his widow and also a joinery business that he had built from the ground up.
The court found, based upon detailed evidence from the family, that Mr Rix had been the founder and driving force behind his joinery business. Mr Rix’s remarkable skill and flair meant that the business had become very successful.
Mr Rix’s business continued to thrive after his death and became even more profitable as a result of his hard work in the past. This created a potential issue which was to prove that there had been a loss for the widow when the business had gone on to more success financially.
Mrs Rix argued that the financial loss she suffered as a result of her husband’s death was her share of the annual income that she would have been jointly entitled to if Mr Rix had lived. Alternatively, Mrs Rix argued that she was entitled to the costs of replacing Mr Rix in the business. After all, the business had had to employ more people to replace Mr Rix’s labour who did not possess his knowledge, skills, experience and contacts.
Unsurprisingly, the Defendant maintained that as the family business had been more profitable after Mr Rix’s death, there was no loss suffered by Mrs Rix.
At trial in the High Court, the judge decided that Mrs Rix had suffered a loss and that she was entitled to her share of the annual income that she would have enjoyed if Mr Rix was alive and well. This was because the income from the business was a result of Mr Rix’s business skill and acumen which had now been lost as a result of his premature death.
In the Court of Appeal, the Defendant argued that the High Court judge had been mistaken in the way he ruled that Mrs Rix’s loss of dependency was to be calculated. The Court of Appeal unanimously dismissed all of the Defendant’s grounds of appeal and found that the income of Mr and Mrs Rix from the business was wholly attributable to Mr Rix’s business talent, skill and hard work. As a result, Mrs Rix was entitled to her share of the income that she would have had if Mr Rix was still alive.
The decision is very important and will benefit families in similar situations. Where a patient of mesothelioma leaves behind a business that they have built up, the dependant can bring a claim for the profits they would have been entitled to if the patient had been alive and well. These types of scenarios are becoming more frequent in asbestos litigation and this case provides a solid basis for families in comparable situations to make claims on the same basis. It is also clear based upon the Judgment, that what happened to a business after the death of the sufferer is not taken in to account – it is the state of the business at death which is the most important factor in quantifying the loss.
Irwin Mitchell, with offices throughout England, has been supporting mesothelioma patients and their families for 40 years. Over that time, it is encouraging that more help has become available through the setting up of support groups. We are proud to work with HASAG, to support our clients and to improve their quality of life as well as supporting mesothelioma networks up and down the country.