The family of Julian M.R., who died in October 2018 at the age of 60 from lung cancer, are seeking 400,000 euros ($450,000) in compensation from the company that manages the Spanish capital's metro system, Metro de Madrid, which they accuse of negligence.
They argue the employee, who had worked as a maintenance worker for Metro de Madrid for over three decades, developed the illness due to overexposure to asbestos.
The trial at a labour court in Madrid is the first for negligence involving Metro de Madrid for a death attributed to asbestos exposure, a spokesman for the High Court of Justice said.
Asbestos, which started to be banned in Europe in the mid-1990s, was widely used as building insulation because it absorbs sound and resists fire, heat and electrical damage.
The inhalation of asbestos fibres has been shown to cause lung inflammation and cancer, and symptoms can take up to 20 years to manifest themselves.
Metro de Madrid is accused of knowing that asbestos was used in its underground rail network at least since 1991 but doing nothing to protect its employees.
Julian M.R. is one of two metro employees who died from a cancer caused by asbestos who had successfully sought recognition as suffering from a work-related illness, according to Spanish media reports.
Another two employees who are battling cancer have also had the disease recognised as being work related, according to the reports.
Rosalia Gonzalo, the transport minister in the Madrid regional government run by the conservative Popular Party, said in November that the presence of asbestos in the metro system posed no risk for metro employees and workers.
She recalled that Metro de Madrid will spend €140 million to remove all asbestos from the metro networks by 2025.
Exposure to asbestos at work kills more than 107,000 people around the world, according to the World Health Organization.