A landmark Court of Appeal judgment has set a benchmark for compensation claims by sufferers of asbestos-related disease.

In Carder v The University of Exeter, lawyers for retired electrician Albert Carder, now 86, calculated that his employment at the University of Exeter contributed 2.3% towards his asbestosis lung disease.

The defendants had argued that the proportion of exposure at the university was minimal and made no discernible difference to his condition.

In judgment, Lord Dyson (pictured), as master of the rolls, said the severity of the disease had been increased by a ‘small, albeit not measurable’ extent.

He upheld a ruling from last July that Carder was entitled to compensation from the university. He said: ‘The judge was right to hold that Mr Carder was slightly worse off as a result of the 2.3% exposure for which the appellant was responsible.’

Carder’s solicitors from south England firm Moore Blatch hailed the outcome as an important decision which will influence other asbestos cases.

Asbestos disease lawyer John Hedley said: ‘Whilst there is a long-established principle around minimal contributions to asbestos exposure by employers, this case helps define what minimal actually means.

‘We can confidently say this contribution can be as low as 2.3% or even less. Whilst the compensation is not substantial, it will help Mr Carder and the ruling will help many other people who are in a similar position.’

Carder’s overall damages from his total exposure were assessed at £67,000, with the university – where he worked in boiler rooms from 1980 to 1994 – contributing £1,713.

As a postscript to his judgment, Dyson said he recognised the sum was small when compared with the costs of litigation. 

He described that as ‘regrettable’ and added that defendants should try to settle cases early where costs are likely to be out of proportion.

Hedley said the lengths the defendant went to fight the case showed how wide an impact the ruling could have. 

‘There is no way of estimating the total number of cases that could be affected, but it is reasonable to assume that it must be substantial.’