Dutch judge awards compensation for the first time to a mesothelioma victim exposed to asbestos dust from Eternit industrial waste

27 March 2007

Dutch judge awards compensation for the first time to a mesothelioma victim exposed to asbestos dust from Eternit industrial waste

Born in 1961, Harrie Jansman was exposed to asbestos dust between 1967 and 1971. In this period he lived as a child on his father's farm, and in 1967 his father had paved their farmyard using industrial waste from the neighbouring Eternit asbestos cement factory. The Dutch Eternitfabriek, since 1937 a subsidiary of the Belgian multinational Eternit, from 1945 until around 1975 regularly gave away, free of charge to people living in the neighbourhood, who were often small farmers, large quantities of industrial waste containing asbestos. The recipients used the waste primarily for paving yards and lanes.

Research commissioned by the Dutch government has demonstrated that asbestos-containing waste can be found in a radius of at least 20 kms (approx. 14 miles) around the Eternit factory inmore than 500 locations. As a result many inhabitants of the district around the Eternit factory have been unknowingly exposed to asbestos. This exposure has led, over the last few years, to a number of cases of mesothelioma. According to recent scientific research there are yearly five additional victims of mesothelioma caused by exposure to asbestos in the general environment in the area around the Dutch Eternit factory.

Eternit has long known that its industrial waste was dangerous, but the firm nevertheless for financial reasons gave away its waste without alerting those taking or using it to the danger. This is why Harrie Jansman held Eternit liable, but Eternit refused to recognise its liability because the firm was of the opinion that in 1967 it could not be expected to know that waste containing asbestos was dangerous.

On 27th February, however, a Dutch judge delivered the verdict that Eternit in 1967 was indeed aware, or should have been aware, of the danger posed by its industrial waste. In so doing, this Dutch judge, for the first time in the Netherlands, awarded an environmental victim of asbestos, Harrie Jansman, compensation for damages.

According to Harrie Jansman’s attorney, Bob Ruers, who is at the same time a Senator for the Socialist Party and legal advisor to the Netherlands Abestos Victimes’ Committee, the ruling can be considered groundbreaking: “Not only Harrie Jansman, but also the other victims who were exposed to Eternit waste have been anxiously looking forward to the result of this court case. Their position in relation to Eternit has been greatly strengthened by this ruling.”

Judgement in the case of: Hermannus Laurentius Jansman versus Eternit Fabrieken B.V., 27 February 2007 (PDF)

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