Appeals’ Court upholds Eternit ruling

The building materials company Eternit has lost its appeal in a compensation claim brought by the family of a woman from Kapelle-op-den-Bos in Flemish Brabant that died of pleural cancer. Françoise Jonckheere’s husband worked at an Eternit factory that produced building materials made out of asbestos.

However, despite having lost the case, the level of compensation Eternit will have to pay the family has been slashed from 250,000 to 25,000 euros. Eternit can still lodge an appeal with the Court of Cassation.

The company was first sentenced to pay 250,000 euro in compensation by a court in Brussels in 2011 in a case brought by the family of Françoise Jonckheere who died of pleural cancer in 2000.

This form of cancer is often caused by exposure to asbestos.
Mrs Jonckheere’s husband worked at the Eternit factory all his life. He died of pleural cancer in 1987. When Mrs Jonckheere died of the same form of cancer in 2000 her family decided to take the company to court.

At the initial case the court rule that Eternit had been at fault as it had continued to use asbestos and to play down the risks involved in working with asbestos even though it was known that it could asbestosis and pleural cancer.

Eternit appealed claiming that previously the dangers of asbestos were not clear. This was despite the judge at the first trial having dismissed these claims.

"Good news"

The Court of Appeal in Brussels has ruled on the side of the family. However, the level of compensation payable by Eternit has been slashed from 250,000 to 25,000 euro. Nevertheless, the family has said that it is satisfied with the ruling. Eternit can still appeal to the Court of Cassation.

The Court of Appeal ruled that in the 1970’s Eternit was aware that asbestos was highly carcinogenic, yet failed to take the necessary measures to protect it’s the health of its employees or those living near to the factory.

The family reacted on twitter by saying that the ruling is “good news”.