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(c) 2016 Jon L Gelman, All Rights Reserved.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

French Court Supports Claims for Anxiety Flowing from Asbestos Exposure - Protests Continue - Criminal Trials Decisions Await

Photo shared from AFP (Agence France-Presse)
"Thousands stage Paris 'die-in' to protest asbestos" 12 Oct 2013

The international movement to support asbestos victims rights in France, and ultimately seek a universal ban, continues in Paris by the ANDEVA (National Association for Defense of Asbestos Victims) advocacy organization.

In September 2013 the Social Chamber of the Court of Cassation confirmed the injury of anxiety for workers exposed to asbestos and the competence of tribunal to condemn employers to compensate. It also had to comment on the injury upheaval in the lives and the responsibility of insurers such as AGS.

The French Court affirmed that damages had be paid to employees sickened by asbestos for anxiety. The Court allowed these damages for the first time in an occupational disease case.

The loss of future income was not allowed by the French Court.

This judgment was highly anticipated not only by the former employees of ZF Masson of Babcock Wanson or Ahlstrom and by thousands of others throughout France. The injured workers and their families received support from ANDEVA.

ANDEVA commented, "You have to measure the scope of this judgment: in spite of fierce resistance from employers and their lawyers that triggered a veritable barrage, the Court of Cassation confirmed and signed, sending a strong signal to businesses for the prevention, compliance with the health and lives of employees." "This fight today conducted for asbestos, will apply to other dangerous products delayed effect and particularly to carcinogens which are still exposing two million employees according to the latest statistics from the Ministry of Labour."

The advocacy movement in France for adequate compensation for asbestos workers is longstanding. ANDEVA, the asbestos workers advocacy group, who I have visited and consulted, has historically pursued judicial remedies for asbestos workers.

It has been reported that,….."Eternit produced and sold asbestos-cement products in France for 75 years – from 1922 until 1997 (the year of the French ban). For much of this time, asbestos-cement production and marketing in France were controlled by a cartel in which Eternit acted in conjunction with the French multinational Saint-Gobain (through its subsidiary Everite). The first Eternit plants were built in 1 922 at Thiant and Prouvy (twin cities in the North département) followed by factories at Vitry-en-Charollais (Paray-le-Monial, Saône-et-Loire dép), Vernouillet (Triel, Yvelines dép), Caronte (Bouches-du-Rhône dép), Saint-Grégoire (Rennes, Ille-et-Vilaine dép) and Terssac (Albi, Tarn dép). While the Prouvy and Caronte factories have been shut down, the Vernouillet site houses the head office of the Eternit holding company; the four other factories were converted (in 1996-97) to the production of non-asbestos fibro-cement."

"In 1996, ANDEVA filed, in a civil suit, a “plainte contre X” (“complaint against unknown persons”), for involuntary injuries and homicides, abstention délictueuse (willful failure to act [to protect persons in imminent danger]) and poisoning; this suit was aimed at all persons responsible for the asbestos health catastrophe: the asbestos product manufacturers, the public health and labour authorities, the medical doctors that had collaborated in the process."

ANDEVA also participates in an annual street protest to support asbestos workers' rights and advocates to ban asbestos and supports litigation for both personal injury benefits for victims and criminal charges against employers.

The recent street protest ("Die-In") in November was reported in the media, "The protesters from all over France lay down in the street outside Sorbonne University in Paris’s Latin Quarter to dramatise that asbestos exposure claims 3,000 lives per year, according to organisers." ..... "'It has been 17 years since we submitted the first complaints, and there has still not been a criminal trial,' ANDEVA vice president Francois Desriaux told AFP. 'The asbestos risk is not ancient history, it still exists today,' he said."

The criminal court cases are still pending.