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Justice for the family of asbestos poisoning victim

Howald Moor and Others v. Switzerland  | 2014

Justice for the family of asbestos poisoning victim

Background

Hans Moor was exposed to asbestos during his work in the 1960s and 70s. This gave him cancer, which was diagnosed in 2004. Hans Moor died in 2005, aged 58.

Just before his death, Mr Moor had brought a claim for damages against his former employer for failing to take precautions against exposure to asbestos. The claim was continued by his wife and children.

The claim was rejected by the courts, due to a 10-year limitation period for accident-related claims – starting from when the harm was caused, not when the victim became aware of it. As Mr Moor’s last exposure to asbestos had been in 1978, the claim lodged in 2005 had been too late.

Judgment of the European Court of Human Rights

As the health problems caused by exposure to asbestos can take several decades to develop, the court said that the application of a ten-year limitation rule stopped people from claiming their rights in court.

The court ruled that, when it was scientifically proven that a person could not have known that he or she had been suffering from a certain disease, that should be taken into account in calculating the limitation period.

Follow-up

In 2015 the Swiss courts allowed Hans Moor’s family to pursue his claim for compensation, regardless of the ten-year limitation rule. Plans have also been introduced to create the “Asbestos Victims Compensation Fund" (FIVA) to provide compensation and psychological support to asbestos victims. The Council of Europe’s Committee of Ministers continues to monitor progress on changes to protect the legal rights of asbestos victims.