Landmark victory for Schadenanwaelte in pleural cancer case at European Court of Human Rights

21 March 2024

In a groundbreaking decision, the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) has ruled in favor of the plaintiffs in the case of Jann-Zwicker and Jann v. Switzerland (application no. 4976/20). The legal triumph was achieved by our law firm, Schadenanwaelte, representing the applicants Regula Jann-Zwicker and Gregor Jann, widow and son of Marcel Jann, who succumbed to pleural cancer in 2006 due to asbestos exposure in the 1960s and 70s.

Marcel Jann had resided in a house rented from Eternit AG, situated in close proximity to one of their asbestos-processing factory. Despite initiating criminal proceedings in 2006 and civil proceedings in 2009, the applicants faced numerous setbacks. The Federal Court ultimately deemed the civil claims time-barred, ruling that the limitation period had elapsed from the time of Marcel Jann’s exposure to asbestos.

However, today’s Chamber judgment by the ECHR unanimously found that there were violations of article 6 § 1 (right to a fair trial) of the European Convention on Human Rights. The court concluded that the lack of access to a court, due to the Swiss courts› ruling on the limitation period, constituted a breach of human rights. Additionally, the ECHR held that the length of the proceedings before the national courts was also in violation of article 6 § 1.

The principal facts of the case outlined Marcel Jann’s exposure to asbestos while living near the Eternit AG factory from 1961 to 1972. The applicants argued that the limitation period should not have been linked to the appearance of damage, as ruled by the Glarus Cantonal Court. The Court, however, held that the time-limit had begun in 1972 when Marcel Jann moved away from Niederurnen, Switzerland.

The applicants persisted in their pursuit of justice, appealing the initial rejection in 2013 and subsequently to the Federal Court. The proceedings were even suspended pending the European Court’s judgment in Howald Moor and Others v. Switzerland. The Federal Court ultimately dismissed their claims in 2018, emphasizing the existence of a compensation fund for asbestos victims.

Schadenanwaelte successfully argued before the ECHR that the denial of access to a court and the prolonged legal process violated the applicants› right to a fair trial. The Court’s decision is not final, as parties have a three-month window to request a referral to the Grand Chamber.

This ruling marks a significant milestone not only in asbestos-related cases, affirming the importance of fair trial rights and access to justice for victims and their families. We look forward to continuing our dedication to the pursuit of justice and ensuring that human rights are protected and respected within the legal framework.

For more details on the case and its implications, please feel free to contact us or follow this link to read the verdict .

RA Martin Hablützel