Court overturns damages ruling for asbestos sufferers

Barcelona factory owner Uralita will not now have to pay out 3.9 million euros to 45 victims

A Madrid court on Thursday decided to revoke a 2010 judicial decision awarding 3.9 million euros to 45 residents of Cerdanyola and Ripollet, Barcelona, for damages to health caused by an asbestos factory.

The original ruling stated that Uralita, the company that owned the now-defunct factory, had failed to take adequate security precautions to prevent residents of the nearby communities from inhaling asbestos fibers, which can lead to serious respiratory diseases. The Madrid provincial court, however, ruled that the statute of limitations had expired.

Uralita can now recoup the 3.9 million euros awarded in the initial ruling, although the affected residents have the right to appeal to the Supreme Court.

The Association of Asbestos Affected, which groups together many of those people who have incurred health problems via the now-banned material, did not wish to comment on the ruling. "We are very upset. Devastated. But we cannot say anything at the present time. This afternoon [Thursday] we will meet with our lawyers and take a decision," said a spokesman.

The legal firm representing the 45 residents, Roca Junyent, has the right, by the terms of the ruling, "to lodge an extraordinary appeal in the High Court for procedural infraction."

The majority of the 45 suffer from pleural plaques as a result of exposure to asbestos. Uralita, which paid the damages in full after the first ruling, said that the incident occurred decades ago and the new management of the firm had "nothing to do" with asbestos production.

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