9 July 2014

A saleswoman who claimed that she had been exposed to asbestos on the shop floor, while working in Marks & Spencer's flagship Marble Arch store, has won her case for compensation in the High Court.

In 2013, Janice Allen was diagnosed with mesothelioma, a cancer of the pleural lining of the lung caused almost exclusively by asbestos, and now has only months to live.

Her lawyer, Harminder Bains, from the law firm Leigh Day, applied for a court order that Marks & Spencer disclose documents, including surveys of stores. As a result of the application, Marks & Spencer admitted negligently exposing Mrs Allen to asbestos.

This is thought to be the first case in which judgment has been given in court for a Marks & Spencer employee who was exposed to asbestos by simply working on the shop floor.

According to Leigh Day, prior to the court date, Marks & Spencer had made a "derisory offer" but then, "at the doors of the court", the retailer asked to negotiate further and agreed to pay Mrs Allen a significant undisclosed sum.

Miss Bains said that she has acted for victims of mesothelioma who have died after being exposed in banks, offices and hospitals and she is also aware of cases involving people dying from mesothelioma who were exposed in schools.

She explained that it can take as long as 40 years for exposure to asbestos to manifest in those who have inhaled asbestos.

From Paul Clarke, business writer for Croner