Neutral Citation Number:  EWHC 2936 (QB)
Case No: HQ09X03547
JEFFREY JONES AND OTHERS
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THE SECRETARY OF STATE FOR ENERGY AND CLIMATE CHANGE
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COAL PRODUCTS LIMITED
The claimants failed to establish that carcinogenesis is a cumulative disease process when viewed under the lens of legal causation. Paradoxically most medical experts agree that the mechanism does in fact involve an accumulation of DNA damage but this does not influence the legal thinking.
1) the disease can occur with no external exposure
2) when multiple carcinogens are present in the environment increased risk of DNA damage arising from one exposure does not mean that the cancer was actually caused by that given source of exposure.
3) any threshold test of material risk would at present be arbitrary.
The case reverses a growing sense that any contribution to the risk of indivisible harm could be found liable for 100% of the damages, as appeared to be the case in Bailey v MOD. However, this is not the end of the debate about material contribution in indivisible harm cases.
This was a High Court decision.
For indivisible diseases, the claimant must aim to show that a given step in causation acts cumulatively if he wants to invoke the material contribution rule.