Up until recently, in the event of the exposure to asbestos of an employee having worked for multiple successive employers, French Social Security only had to inform the last employer of the fact that an employee had developed an asbestos-related illness. This last employer was, therefore, the only one able to challenge the conduct of the Social Security's investigation.
However, on 19 December 2013, the French Supreme Court handed down a decision in which it confirmed that Social Security should only inform the last employer, but added for the first time that if Social Security breaches its duty to inform the last employer, the previous employers will automatically be exonerated like the last employer (please see the February 2014 issue of this newsletter).
On 3 April 2014, the French Supreme Court confirmed this ruling. Moreover, it specified that when the last employer does not exist anymore (eg the company has closed down), Social Security does not exonerate itself from its duty to inform by arguing that it could not inform the last employer. The French Supreme Court relies on the new version of Article R. 411-11 of the Social Security Code, which states that Social Security should inform the employer to which the decision "could be detrimental", in its ruling that a company which is no longer registered has no interest to be informed by Social Security, which should subsequently inform the penultimate employer.
This clarification, which is good news for companies, will only apply to the gross negligence claims filed before 1 January 2013.