Lung cancer

Oncologist wins legal case against asbestos industry lobbyist

An international expert on mesothelioma has won a landmark legal case against an asbestos industry lobbyist who accused him of falsifying the health risks of the product.

Dr Robin Rudd, a UK respiratory oncologist who has spent the past 35 years giving expert evidence in court cases relating to alleged asbestos related lung disease has won a landmark Data Protection Act against an industry lobbyist who tried to have him deregistered.

Dr Rudd, who worked in the NHS at the London Chest Hospital and St Bartholomew’s, is recognised as one of the UK’s leading experts in the science of asbestos-related diseases.

The defendant in the legal case, John Bridle, 79, has been involved for 50 years in the manufacture and use of chrysotile (white) asbestos and asbestos cement.

According to court papers Mr Bridle made a complaint to the General Medical Council alleging that Dr Rudd had falsified the health risks of chrysotile asbestos “in order to claim compensation on behalf of patients suffering from mesothelioma”.

The GMC dismissed the complaint after deciding it did not meet their threshold for investigation but wrote to Dr Rudd advising him of the complaint and suggesting that Dr Rudd’s “responsible officer” consider the complaint “in the wider context of your practice and revalidation”.

Upon learning about the GMC complaint Dr Rudd made a ‘subject access request’ to Mr Bridle under the Data Protection Act in order to obtain personal information Bridle held on him.

However, Mr Bridle claimed that he was not the data controller under the Act, rather his company was.

However in the court proceedings Justice Warby disagreed, stating: “I have concluded that Mr Bridle was and is the, or a data controller in respect of the personal data which are the subject of this claim. I do not accept the defendants’ case that the Company is the, or a data controller in respect of those data.”

He went on to say that the main consideration was the gravity of the allegations made against Dr Rudd by Mr Bridle, to “persons and organisations with considerable power to influence or even terminate his professional career.”

He concluded that it was “ just and convenient to enable him to learn as much as the DPA permits about the manner and circumstances in which that has been done. Dr Rudd’s aims are understandable and legitimate. “

Mr Bridle was ordered to comply with s 7 of the 1998 Act by providing further information including descriptions of recipients of personal data, the identities of persons who had been communicating with Mr Bridle about Dr Rudd.

You can read the full judgement here

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