Thousands of construction workers could lose compensation for asbestos-related illness if the House of Lords decides in favour of the employers in the case of Barker vs Saint-Gobain.

Saint-Gobain Pipelines is appealing against a decision to award Sylvia Barker £152,000 in compensation for the death of her husband from mesothelioma in 1996.

The company is arguing that it should be liable for only part of a claim if a worker was exposed to asbestos in more than one workplace. At the moment, full damages can be claimed against one company if it is not possible to sue all culpable parties.

James Thompson at John Pickering & Partners, which is acting for Barker, said "It's illogical to say half a death is the responsibility of one employer and half the other employer. You can't divide a death; it's a nonsense."

Saint-Gobain is also arguing that sufferers should not get any compensation if exposure also occurred during a period of self-employment.

Ian McFall at Thompsons Solicitors said: "If the Lords allow this appeal to go through anyone who has been exposed during self-employment may lose their right to compensation. That could affect hundreds of people each year, most in the construction industry."

The three-day trial is due to start on Monday.