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Michael Kent KC

Call 1975 • KC 1996

"Regarded with the utmost respect by peers and also by the judiciary."
(Legal 500)

Industrial Disease

Michael has been heavily involved in recent years advising and acting for long-tail employers’ liability insurers raising fundamental points of principle in relation to liability for industrial disease. He was involved in many of the leading cases of recent years. He was at the forefront of the successful reversal of the hitherto accepted treatment of asbestos-related pleural plaques as actionable injury. He was also involved in the leading case concerned with liability for noise-induced hearing loss where government approved codes of conduct at the date of exposure were complied with. He appeared for the ABI as an Intervener in the Supreme Court in relation to long-term exposure and insurance gaps.

Recent work includes:

  • Acting for Defendants resisting claims for loss of earnings due to sensitisation to platinum salts: whether actionable injury in tort; whether alternative claims in contract may be brought for more than nominal damages; effect of collective agreement incorporated in employment contracts; existence and scope of implied term; whether implied term or duty of care in relation to avoidance of pure economic losses.
  • Acting for liability insurers seeking to avoid employers’ liability policy in favour of Cape Asbestos parent company for material non-disclosure based on allegations of emerging knowledge in 1950s and early 1960s of risk of mesothelioma from asbestos; knowledge derived from Cape operations in South Africa and reports of Dr Wagner; whether some types of asbestos then understood to be more potent than others; role of Factory Inspectorate; effect of knowledge acquired at New York Conference in October 1964.
  • Acting for claimant in subrogated claims under asset sale agreement against co-insured; recovery of costs and outlay on asbestos risks in respect of periods before and after defendant became co-insured; apportionment.
  • Acting for defendants in Group action (17,000 plus claimants) seeking damages for alleged effects of smoke and toxic emissions from factory fire in a suburb of Liverpool which burned for two weeks or so in June/July 2011: issues of causation and toxicity of smoke tried as preliminary issues. Meteorological, medical, toxicological and plume modelling expert evidence; dermatology, ENT; chest physicians.
  • Appearing in Supreme Court for ABI as Intervener: EL insurance, asbestos risks; uninsured periods; Mesothelioma; Compensation Act; Equitable contribution by insured.
  • Appearing on behalf of Intervener in Supreme Court on issue of liability at common law or under the Factories Act 1961 for noise induced hearing loss sustained by employees before the coming into force of the Noise at Work Regulations 1989.
  • Acting for claimants in group action alleging adverse consequences to health resulting from exposure to ionising radiation from nuclear tests carried out by the British Government in the 1950s and 1960s. Issues relating to knowledge and proof of causation of later disease as being due to exposure to nuclear fall-out.
  • Acting for insurers of major furniture suppliers in Group litigation (c 6,000 claimants) alleging dermatitis from contact with furniture; drafting Claims Handling Agreement containing tariff awards which was approved by High Court.
  • Acting for defendant on issue of proof of causation of lung fibrosis in relation to low dose exposure to asbestos: significance of pathology findings and Helsinki criteria.Appearing for Defendants in test cases establishing that employers have no liability for asbestos-related pleural plaques and no claim for free-standing psychiatric injury.

Acting for successors to National Dock Labour Board: whether common law liabilities owed to registered dock workers for disease arising out of exposure to asbestos cargoes in 1950s and 1960s.

Selected Cases

  • Cuthbert v Taylor Woodrow Construction Holdings [2024] EWCA Civ 244:  the nature and extent  of  employer’s statutory and common law duties in relation to work with asbestos products on a building site in the 1950s.
  • Holmes v Poeton Holdings Limited  [2023] EWCA Civ 1377; [2024] 2 W.L.R. 1029: issues as to breach of duty and causation of  Parkinson’s Disease attributed  to exposure at work to a chemical solvent (trichloroethylene).
  • Andrews & Ors. v Kronospan Ltd  [2022] EWHC 479 (QB); 201 Con. L.R. 1 revocation of permission to claimants in group litigation alleging dust nuisance  to rely on their expert’s evidence due to contact between the expert and the solicitors instructing him over the content of the joint discussions and a draft joint statement.
  • Rix v Paramount Shopfitting Co Ltd [2021] EWCA Civ 1172; [2021] 4 W.L.R. 109–Mesothelioma claim:  assessment of widow’s dependency where deceased had built up a substantial family business.
  • Witham (as executrix of the estate of Witham (deceased)) v Steve Hill Ltd [2021] EWCA Civ 1312; [2022] P.I.Q.R. P2–Fatal mesothelioma claim. Foster children—not eligible themselves to claim under the Fatal Accidents Act. Whether in valuing the dependency, the cost of replacement care of the deceased’s services as foster carer was recoverable as a services dependency lost by the widow.
  • Head v Culver Heating Co Ltd [2021] Costs L.R. 637–When unjust to allow the claimant to benefit from the CPR 36.17(4) special benefits where  he had been permitted to rely on evidence which had been served late without good reason.
  • Holmes v S&B Concrete Ltd [2020] EWHC 2277 (QB)–Industrial deafness. Whether time stops running for limitation purposes when a resolution to wind up the defendant company (later restored to the Register) had been made.
  • Dryden & Ors.v Johnson Matthey Plc (Supreme Court—judgment awaited—on appeal from Greenway v Johnson Matthey [2016] EWCA Civ 408; [2016] 1 WLR 4487):
  • Cape Intermediate Holdings Ltd v Aviva Plc [2017] Trial of Part 20 proceedings before Picken J (settled before judgment).
  • Cape Distribution Ltd v Cape Intermediate Holdings Ltd (no 2) [2016] EWHC 1786 (QB); [2017] Lloyd’s Rep. I.R. 1.
  • Saunderson v Sonae Industria (UK) Ltd [2015] EWHC 2264 (QB)
  • International Energy Group Ltd v Zurich Insurance plc UK Branch (Association of British Insurers and another intervening) [2015] UKSC 33; [2016] A.C. 509 Supreme Court
  • Baker v Quantum Clothing Group Ltd [2011] UKSC 17; [2011] 1 WLR 1003 Supreme Court.
  • AB and ors v Ministry of Defence (Atomic Veterans litigation) [2010] EWCA Civ 1317:
  • Linkwise/Eurosofa DMF Group Litigation –Horwood & Ors v Argos Ltd & Ors. settlement approved by Macduff J.
  • Sabin v BRB (Residuary) Ltd [2010] EWHC 267 (QB) Rice v Secretary of State of Business Enterprise & Regulatory Reform; Thompson v Same [2007] EWCA Civ 289 and [2008] EWHC 3216 (QB)
  • Rothwell v Chemical Insulating Co Ltd [2007] UKHL 39; [2008] 1 AC 281; [2007] 3 WLR 876
  • The Creutzfeld-Jakob Disease Litigation: N v Medical Research Council and Department of Health [1996] 7 Med LR 309; 54 BMLR 8, Morland J and CA:
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Qualifications


  • Inns of Court School of Law (1973 – 1975)
  • BA (Hons) Politics, University of Sussex (1970 – 1973)
  • Nautical College, Pangbourne (1965 – 1969)
  • Recorder of the Crown Court  2000-2022
  • Deputy High Court Judge (Queen’s Bench Division and Administrative Court) 2010-2022.
  • He is a Bencher of the Middle Temple

Memberships


  • London Common Law and Commercial Bar Association (Chairman 2011-13)
  • Administrative Law Bar Association
  • Tecbar
  • Chairman of working group on expert witnesses for Inns of Court College of Advocacy (2018)

Recommendations


“Michael is a legendary figure who is phenomenally knowledgeable and a really brilliant appellate figure who is trusted by judges.”

Chambers & Partners, 2024

‘He has a profound grasp of the law and combines that with diffident but highly effective advocacy.’

Legal 500, 2024

“He is one of the best appellate advocates solicitors have seen. He has a profound grasp of the law and combines that with diffident but highly effective advocacy. He is a real pleasure to work with, both one to one and as part of a wider team.”

Legal 500, 2024

“His knowledge of the law is encyclopedic and his attention to detail is phenomenal.” “He is very good on his feet and technically excellent.”

Chambers & Partners, 2022

“Able to hone in on the crucial aspects of the matter at hand and his advice is second to none – Michael has a keen commercial awareness but is also up for the fight when it needs to be fought.”

Legal 500, 2022

“A very accomplished and well-respected advocate with a good command of the law.” “A very good advocate who is highly regarded in his field.”

Chambers & Partners, 2021

“Regarded with the utmost respect by peers and also by the judiciary.”

Legal 500, 2021

“Always a calm and measured presence in conference and courtroom alike. His advocacy skills are excellent, as is his ability to provide clarity in the most complex of cases.”

Legal 500, 2021

“He has the most wonderful advocacy style – he’s calm, silky and measured.” “He is hugely intelligent and pleasure to work with.”

Chambers & Partners, 2020

“He is particularly strong handling high-profile group litigation.”

Legal 500, 2020

“A highly skilled advocate who is able to get to grips with the most complex of issues…The epitome of a smooth operator. An excellent KC whom I can’t recommend highly enough.”

Chambers & Partners, 2018

“A very high-quality silk.”

Legal 500, 2017


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