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  • Writer's pictureKirk Hartley

Spanish Trial Court Enters Judgment for Plaintiffs in a Lawsuit Regarding “Neighborhood Exposu

Spain. As readers may recall, its Supreme Court last year approved the use of contingent fees, as described in this prior post. More recently, asbestos litigation took a new turn in Spain through last week’s judgment in favor of persons living in relatively close proximity to an asbestos-cement factory that used and spewed out asbestos fibers. According to this brief news article, “Spanish construction materials firm Uralita was ordered to pay 3.9 million euros (4.9 million dollars) to 45 people who for decades lived near its factory in a Barcelona suburb, for "damage to the lungs, leading in some cases to death", according to the ruling obtained by AFP Wednesday.” Thus, Spanish law now includes a recovery for a so-called “neighborhood exposure.”

More specifics on the proceedings are kindly provided by Albert Azagra, a Spanish lawyer and law school teacher with a long-standing interest in asbestos litigation. Set out below is the informative abstract for an article he’s writing on the judgment; the abstract includes a link to the opinion. The full article is expected to be published shortly in InDret. The abstract states:

“Recent developments mark a turning point in Spanish asbestos litigation. Aggregate litigation, non-occupational exposure, and pleural plaques are posing challenges familiar to lawyers and

scholars from other jurisdictions.

The Judgment of the 46th Trial Court of Madrid, July 5th 2010 (J. Javier Sánchez-Beltrán) is the latest example. A manufacturer of asbestos-cement products was found liable for injuring neighbors of a factory located in the province of Barcelona. The relevance of the judgment among reported decisions on asbestos litigation is, at least, six-fold: (i) environmentally-exposed victims are awarded damages for the first time; (ii) domestic exposure is considered to trigger liability for the second time; (iii) the award ranks among the highest so far: 3.918.594,64 €; (iv) the interests of as many as forty-seven neighbors -or their relatives- were at stake; (v) most of the neighbors were asymptomatic or suffered only minor injuries; (vi) the judgment was delivered by a civil court applying a three-year statute of limitation and combining negligence and strict liability criteria, while labor courts deciding on occupational exposure cases generally apply a one-year statute of limitation and a negligence rule.

This article comments on the judgment and analyzes practical and theoretical problems that may arise both from aggregate litigation and pleural plaques litigation. It also points out some likely consequences of having environmentally-exposed victims as plaintiffs in an increasing number of cases.”

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