Albert Carder, 86, sued the university after he was exposed to the hazardous substance while working in boiler rooms there between 1980 and 1994. Mr Carder, from Exeter, has been diagnosed with asbestosis and is housebound because he suffers chronic respiratory problems, and must use oxygen to stay comfortable.
His wife said he is now being looked after in hospice because his condition has worsened, but did not want to comment about the university’s decision to challenge a court ruling that it must pay damages to him.
The university also said it was unable to comment at this stage while the appeal was still ongoing.
In July, 2015, London’s High Court heard how Mr Carder’s exposure occurred earlier in his working life – during the 1950s when he was an apprentice electrician.
But Mr Carder’s chances of winning damages from his then employers were negligible as they were uninsured.It was agreed that his exposure while working at the university represented only a small fraction of his “lifetime exposure”.
The university admitted it had breached its duty as Mr Carder’s employer. However, its lawyers claimed the relatively small dosage he received at the university had made “no difference to his condition”.
Judge Allan Gore QC ruled in favour of Mr Carder saying he had proved his case against the university, although acknowledging that its contribution to his illness was “very small”.
Judge Gore ruled that, if the university had been entirely responsible for Mr Carder’s condition, he would have ordered it to pay around £70,000 damages.The fractional exposure suffered by Mr Carder at the university entitled him to just a proportion of that sum – a total of £1,552.
However, Judge Gore’s ruling means that Mr Carder can return to court to seek further compensation should his condition worsen. Exeter University is challenging that ruling in what is being seen as an important test case at London’s Appeal Court.
The three Appeal Court judges – the Master of the Rolls, Lord Dyson, Lord Justice Kitchin and Lord Justice Hamblin – will give their ruling at a later date.