Payout slashed for smoker's widow


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May 24, 2005
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Payout slashed for smoker's widow

A court has ruled that a Devon worker was "negligent" for smoking and cut his widow's payout.

Beryl Badger of Keyham, Plymouth, was told that husband Reg, a boiler maker at Devonport military docks, had been warned about the risks of smoking.

Asbestos was partly to blame, but Mr Badger's smoking was also implicated in his death from cancer in 2002, aged 63.

In a landmark case, the High Court cut the compensation of £149,000 against the Ministry of Defence (MoD) by 20%.

It was reasonably forseeable by a reasonably prudent man that, if he smoked, he risked damaging his health
Mr Justice Burnton

Mr Badger had been employed by the MoD between 1954 and 1987 at its dockyards in Devonport and Gibraltar.

In the course of his work, he was exposed to asbestos dust and fibres, which were causative of the cancer that killed him.

But he also smoked and that too was causative of his cancer, said Mr Justice Burnton.

The MoD asked for a reduction of 25%, while Mrs Badger put any contributory negligence as low as 1%.

Health hazards

The judge said that Mr Badger could not be criticised for starting to smoke at the age of 16, as at that time, in 1955, the connection between smoking and serious ill health was not widely accepted.

However, when health warnings began to appear on cigarette packets in 1971, the judge said it could be "inferred" that the public became aware of the health hazards.

From then on, "it was reasonably forseeable by a reasonably prudent man that, if he smoked, he risked damaging his health", the judge added.

The judge said: "Surprisingly, there is no reported case in which the question whether the smoking of tobacco constitutes contributory negligence has been considered.

"Conversely, in no case decided in the UK has a smoker succeeded in recovering damages against a manufacturer of cigarettes or other tobacco product.

"The decision in this case, in this court, or on appeal, is likely to affect decisions in, and doubtless settlements of, other claims." Mrs Badger, who will now receive £122,000, was unavailable for comment.

Story from BBC NEWS:
Published: 2005/12/16 16:21:20 GMT
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