Case Studies

Willmore v Knowsley Metropolitan Borough Council

In April 20011, the Supreme Court upheld the earlier decisions of Mr Justice

Nicol and the Court of Appeal, that Knowsley Metropolitan Borough Council was liable for having exposed Diane Willmore to asbestos whilst a pupil at a Bowring Comprehensive School Huyton near Liverpool.

Diane Willmore developed mesothelioma according to the trial judge’s finding, after being exposed to asbestos in the following manner:-

  • From workmen over a few days removing, handling and disturbing ceiling tiles (which he held were likely to have contained amosite or brown asbestos) in a corridor along which Mrs Willmore and other pupils used regularly;
  • From boys bullying pupils by seizing the coats, blazers and satchells of other pupils and stuffing them into the ceiling void damaging, what the judge found to be Asbestolux tile, as they did so and causing exposure to asbestos dust;
  • From ceiling tiles in the girls’ toilets, containing asbestos according to the judge’s findings, being vandalised and damaged; and on one occasion at least, being stored in the toilets.

The Court of Appeal accepted that Diane Willmore had indeed been exposed to asbestos from the workmen removing ceiling tiles and from the ceiling tiles in the girls’ toilets, but did not accept that the ceiling tiles disturbed by the boys contained asbestos. Sadly Diane Willmore died of her illness the day after the judgment of the Court of Appeal. She was only aged 49.

The Supreme Court was mainly concerned with technical legal arguments regarding the legal requirements in proving that the exposure to asbestos, whilst a school pupil, had caused Diane Willmore to develop Mesothelioma. Nevertheless, it in turn found that she had indeed suffered her asbestos related illness, as the result of the school negligently exposing her and other school children to asbestos, over 30 years before her death.

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