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Asbestosis victim's widow succeeds in fight for justice
A woman whose husband died shortly after he was diagnosed with an asbestos-related disease has received an out of court settlement.
Edmund Young, an industrial disease specialist at Fentons Solicitors LLP, said his client, who is in her 60s, took up her husband’s fight for justice against his former employers following his death in December 2010, which was caused in part by the asbestos he was exposed to at work decades earlier.
“My client’s husband first noticed he was having problems with his breathing whilst on holiday in 2009,” said Edmund, an associate with the firm. “After returning home, he had some tests done which revealed his lungs weren’t working as well as they should have been.
“The doctors suspected he could be suffering with an asbestos-related illness because of his work history,” he added. “The following year a chest x-ray confirmed he had a lung disease known as pleural thickening, caused by asbestos, which was affecting the lining of his lungs and causing breathlessness and chest pains.”
Between 1962 and 1978, the claimant’s husband had worked as a pipe-fitter for an engineering firm based in London. “His job involved maintaining and fitting pipe-work and boilers at various building sites across the capital and the South-East,” said Edmund.
“He used to have to work alongside teams of laggers who would mix powdered asbestos with water in big 50 gallon drums to make a paste which they would apply by hand, when wet, directly onto the pipes,” he added. “The mixing process alone would create huge plumes of asbestos dust which would linger in the air and prove impossible not to breathe in.
“At the end of each day, his hair, shoes and face would be absolutely covered in white asbestos dust,“ said Edmund. “He and his colleagues would use an oxygen line to blow the asbestos fibres off their clothes at the end of their shifts, but he would still come home each day with splinters in his palms from the tiny fibres.
“There was never any kind of ventilation or extraction system in place even though the air was often thick with asbestos fibres,” he added. “He was never even provided with a face mask or breathing equipment - in fact he and his colleagues would often use handkerchiefs to cover their mouths to filter the air just so that they could breathe properly. Nobody ever warned him or his colleagues of the risks they faced in working with asbestos. Health concerns just didn’t seem to be a factor - it’s like no-one cared.”
Edmund said that after his client’s husband approached him with his claim in August 2010, his shortness of breath became significantly more pronounced and he began to struggle with any kind of exercise.
“As his health continued to deteriorate, he became increasingly reliant upon his wife to help him with his personal care as well as assistance in getting him in and out of bed each day, dressing and getting up and down the stairs at home,” said Edmund. “Following his tragic death at home in December 2010 - after which a coroner found he had died of heart failure and asbestosis - my client took up her husband’s fight for justice.
“As with so many of the industrial disease cases we handle involving workers who were exposed to asbestos back in the 1950s and 60s, the true danger of asbestos was not nearly as widely understood then as it is today,” added Edmund. “As such, many workers at the time had no idea of the risks they were facing each day and neither were they provided with the kind of safety equipment that workers are now required by law to use.
“It can often take several decades for asbestos-related illness symptoms to appear, said Edmund. “Unfortunately in the majority of these cases, by the time victims are diagnosed with asbestos-related conditions, their health usually deteriorates very quickly.
“Owing to the length of time it takes for asbestos victims to become ill, it can often be a serious challenge locating former colleagues who can provide the kind of vital evidence needed to support victim’s claims,” he added. “In this case, we were very fortunate to be able to secure witness testimony from a former colleague who was able to confirm his exposure to asbestos.
“My client’s husband worked diligently throughout his life and it is only right that his former employers, who admitted liability, compensate his dependants for the pain and suffering he had to endure through no fault of his own.”
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