Court dismisses asbestos case

Court dismisses asbestos case

A landmark asbestos case has been acquitted relating to the chemicals company, Eternit. The case related to 3,000 asbestos related deaths which were caused by contamination at the construction firm Etnernit.

Originally the case had involved the sentencing of Swiss entrepreneur Stephan Schmidheiny to 18 years in prison for his involvement in the company during the period of negligence in question. He was jailed in 2012 for 16 years and then sentenced to a further two years by the appeals court in 2013. Throughout the case Schmidheiny stated that he had no involvement in the company when the asbestos negligence was happening.

The ruling was changed as the court noted that the statute of limitations had passed. The Cassation said that the charge was relating to environmental disaster, not manslaughter which meant that the statute of limitations had to be applied. The construction firm Eternit has not operated in Italy for 25 years however the response to the verdict was not taken lightly with many families of victims voicing their frustration.

Premier Matteo Renzi further voiced the concerns of the victims’ families relating to the decision. He noted that Italy’s justice system must be improved regarding the speed of trials to prevent this type of case from happening again.

It’s not possible that for some cases the demand for justice runs out because there are some wounds that don’t know time limits”.

Local trade unions and the Italian asbestos victims association, Afeva now aim to take the court to Strasbourg. Bruno Pesce, the leader of Afeva commented with the following:

This sentence is a shock, it has been a shot into our stomachs, it seems that thousands of deaths never existed. We can’t stop our fight when people keep on dying every week. My country missed a chance to tell the world the truth. We still ask for justice”.

[1] “Italian supreme court’s asbestos ruling could have major implications for Brazil”, Maria Zuppello, 2014,
[2] “Outrage in Italy after asbestos case is thrown out”,
[3] “Swiss Billionaire Schmidheiny Wins Asbestos Court Battle”, Tatiana Serafin, 2014,