Compensation victory 30 years after asbestos exposure

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Compensation victory 30 years after asbestos exposure

29th March 2010

A man who developed cancer after being exposed to asbestos as a teenaged apprentice has received £350,000 compensation in an out of court settlement. His prolonged exposure to the deadly dust and fibres in his youth led to him developing mesothelioma more than three decades later.

"My client took an apprenticeship with British Rail-Sealink in 1976, after completing an engineering course at college when he was just 17," explained Lesley Mynett, an industrial disease specialist with Fentons Solicitors LLP. "As an apprentice pipe-fitter, he worked at the British Rail Packet Yard on Snargate Street in Dover.

"He would work alongside most of the tradesmen on site but would work most closely with the plumbers, usually working with at least one or two plumbers on a daily basis," said Lesley. "His tasks would regularly include replacing rotten pipes and bolted flanges, removing lagging and renewing pipe work, and the replacement and renewal of boilers."

Lesley said that although some of the tasks could be undertaken in the workshop, much of the work required her client to be on the ships. "All of the vessels that he worked on were cross channel ferries," she said. "Most of them would have been more than 30 years' old by the time he was required to work on them.

"He came into contact with asbestos regularly in the repair and maintenance jobs on the various ships," she said. "When repairing or replacing leaking or damaged pipes, he had to remove the lagging from the pipe with a hacksaw or a knife. This would send dust from the old asbestos being removed into the atmosphere.

"Sometimes he would be required to work on pipe work that was quite high up in the engine room or the boiler room, while sometimes other people would be working overhead when he was working below," said Lesley. "On these occasions he would have asbestos dust falling on him from above.

"He was also exposed to asbestos when undertaking refits to the steel boilers, which would be wrapped with asbestos lagging. Again, my client would have to strip away the asbestos either by hand or using a hacksaw in order to get to the pipe connection," said Lesley.

"Although he was aware of the asbestos being there, he was not aware of the dangers of the inhalation of asbestos. He was provided with no protective equipment save for a pair of blue overalls, he was not given any mask or breathing equipment, and he wasn't even warned of any dangers relating to the asbestos or the dust," she said.

Lesley's client left his job at the Dover yard in 1981 and moved into catering, leaving his engineering past behind. But 25 years later, the asbestos he had been exposed to led to him developing mesothelioma.

"All my client did was go to work, and he ended up contracting this most awful of diseases," said Lesley. "By succeeding in pursuing his claim for compensation, we have finally held those responsible to account."

Following prolonged negotiations, Lesley settled her client's claim for £350,000.

How can Fentons Solicitors help?
Fentons has a specialist department experienced in handling claims for victims of industrial diseases including asbestos-related lung cancer and mesothelioma.

If you think that you have a case or require further information contact Fentons on 0800 0191 297 or fill in the online claims questionnaire.