CBC Digital Archives

Lesson Plan: For Teachers: Asbestos Class Action

History, Social Studies, Business Studies
3 lessons
To create and argue a convincing case for negligence in response to a specific issue
Students will build a case for government or industry negligence regarding asbestos.

Lesson Plan

Before Exploring

As a class, define the term "class action suit." (A class action suit is a lawsuit brought on behalf of a group of people, and alleging negligence on the part of a group or company).

Ask students to brainstorm current or recent class action suits. If necessary, prompt them by mentioning suits against the tobacco industry in the United States, or the tainted blood or Walkerton water suits in Canada.

Students can briefly browse the topic Asbestos: Magic Mineral or Deadly Dust? on the CBC Digital Archives website, or use the timelines they created if they completed the activity A Timeline of the Asbestos Industry. With their information, have them brainstorm as a class who might be the plaintiffs and the defendants in a class action suit against the asbestos industry and who they think should be held liable.

Outline the Opportunity

Students will work in groups to represent legal teams. Each team will gather information to establish a class action suit based on their choice of plaintiffs and defendants as brainstormed in Before Exploring.

Have students choose whom they plan to represent, and against whom they will file a claim. Then have them examine in detail the topic Asbestos: Magic Mineral or Deadly Dust? on the CBC Digital Archives website. As they view clips, they should compile facts, eyewitness reports, worker statements, and any other information needed to build a case for negligence. After they have researched, students gather in their groups to organize their information into a logical, progressive argument.

With the teacher acting as judge, and the class acting as jury, each legal team will present its arguments.

Revisit and Reflect

As a class, discuss each team's arguments and the merits and pitfalls of each argument. For each case, decide as a class whether to award a settlement. Settlements should be based both on the merits of the case and on the amount of information the group being sued might already have (for example, less information was available in 1954 when the first links were made than in 1974 when people were living in Thetford Mines).


Students can take on the role of defendant in one of the cases and develop written arguments to support the role and actions of a company or level of government.

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