The Supreme Court has ruled that Uralita must compensate not only the relatives of the workers of one of its factories, located in Cerdanyola del Vallès (Barcelona), but also the neighbors who lived near it and who were also affected by contamination from asbestos fumes. In the judgment, the high court establishes that Corporación Industrial de Materiales de Construcción SA – formerly called Uralita – must economically compensate 39 affected by the damages caused by the industrial activity that the company developed in that municipality between 1907 and 1997, consisting of the manufacture of elements for construction through the use of asbestos. In addition, it clarifies that among those people to compensate are not only relatives of factory workers but also people who lived in the vicinity and who were also harmed by environmental pollution, specifically by emanations and waste from it.
Uralita: more than 20 years of sentences for attacking health
The total compensation exceeds 2.3 million euros, and the Supreme Court partially estimates the appeal of those affected in the sense of assessing the moral damage derived from the pleural plates, which are a radiological manifestation of asbestos exposure, which It implies a risk factor although it does not involve lung involvement. To do this, it takes into account the risk of ending up contracting a disease derived from asbestos, the long period of uncertainty due to the high latency periods of the disease and the fact that the applicants live in a population with a high percentage of diseases of this kind. .
The damages alleged in the lawsuit of those affected were based on the inhalation of asbestos fibers. In the first place, by the relatives of the company’s workers, who returned to their respective homes with contaminated work clothes, but also by people who lived in the vicinity of the factory as a result of the fumes and waste from the same.
A court of first instance upheld the claim only with regard to the claims of the family members of workers who had provided their services in the company between 1971 and 1977. But later, the Provincial Court expanded the company’s responsibility with respect to all the family members of workers, without limiting it to said period, and also estimated the demand in terms of neighbors. The Supreme Court now dismisses the appeals filed by the company.
The high court considers that the use of asbestos in industrial processes, and especially the inhalation of the dust that was given off in the manufacture of derivative products, constituted an indisputable health risk that was well known at least in the 1940s. last. It adds that the defendant entity had perfect evidence of the risks that these substances generated for the health of workers and other people, as well as the dangerousness of the industrial activity that it developed, insofar as it was susceptible to generating different respiratory pathologies even elevated to the condition of occupational disease.
The ruling adds that the company was aware of its neighbors that its industrial activity was abnormally dangerous and this forced it to take due precautions to a very high degree and to adopt efficient measures to avoid or reduce risks and guarantee people’s compensation. . “The accredited circumstances in the litigation indicate that, far from observing that special duty of enforceable care, the risk in management increased not only with deficiencies in the internal maintenance of tolerable levels of contamination but also in environmental contamination,” they state the magistrates.
Regarding the workers’ relatives, they explain that “the retention and deposit on the work clothes of the fibers and asbestos dust was known.” For this reason, the court considers that “it was not difficult for the company to represent itself, in its active obligation to prevent damage, that the referred clothing arrived impregnated with such substances at their homes, where they were washed, and therefore constituted a focus of contamination for their cohabiting relatives “.
The Chamber also confirms the compatibility between the compensation claimed by the heirs of the deceased persons and those corresponding to the damage experienced by them as injured by their death.