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Elderly mesothelioma victim leaves £40,000 settlement to charity
An elderly Essex man who developed mesothelioma after he was exposed to asbestos through his work has left the £40,000 settlement his estate received following his death to a number of charities.
Edmund Young, an industrial disease specialist at Fentons Solicitors LLP, said the former marine fitter, who was in his 80s and lived alone, was already suffering with unrelated liver cancer when he started his claim against his former employer and left instructions in his will to donate any settlement he might win to charity.
“When in April 2011 my client saw his GP complaining that he wasn’t able to walk for more than a few yards without wheezing, he was referred to his local hospital,” said Edmund, a partner with the firm. “Following an x-ray, which revealed a build-up of several litres of fluid in his chest, he underwent an operation to drain the fluid from his right lung. After further scans he was diagnosed with mesothelioma in July 2011.
“My client was already extremely ill when he instructed us to pursue a claim against his former employer - who he believed had exposed him to asbestos more than 50 years ago,” added Edmund. “Unfortunately, as is so often the case with aggressive illnesses such as mesothelioma, his symptoms deteriorated rapidly following his diagnosis up until his death in October 2011.”
Edmund said that throughout the 1950s and 60s his client had worked for a ship-repair company as a marine fitter on board ships docked in and around East London.
“His job had involved stripping down and building boilers alongside teams of pipe-fitters and laggers,” said Edmund. “Much of his work took place within the cramped conditions of boiler rooms where space was always extremely limited. The boilers and surrounding pipework were all lagged with asbestos and there were always at least half-a-dozen pipe-fitters and laggers mixing up asbestos in steel drums often within just a few feet away.
“When they weren’t re-lagging the pipes with wet asbestos the laggers would cut it to size with hacksaws before applying the material dry,” he added. “The cutting process alone created huge plumes of asbestos dust yet despite the cramped conditions, there was never any form of ventilation or extraction system in place and my client was never provided with a face mask or any kind of respiratory equipment.”
Edmund said his client remembered how the air inside the boiler rooms was often thick with asbestos fibres which would settle on his clothes, hair and shoes.
“There were occasions when asbestos debris would fall on his head and shoulders from all the lagging work taking place above him or times when he’d be able to write his own name in the dust on the walls and floor,” said Edmund. “Despite the presence of so much dust and the fact that there was never any way to avoid inhaling the toxic fibres in the air, he was never advised of the risks involved with working with asbestos.”
In the months leading up to his death, the claimant, who was unmarried and had no immediate family, was looked after at home by friends as well as a team of specialist cancer nurses from his local hospital. As his symptoms deteriorated and he eventually reached the point where he was unable to move or eat unaided, he appointed professional executors to manage his will, instructing them to leave any potential settlement he was to receive to various charities.
Edmund said that the first post-mortem carried out on his client failed to confirm mesothelioma as a cause of death. As this was a significant hurdle in pursuing damages, Edmund insisted on submitting lung tissue samples to a second pathologist. “When the second pathologist confirmed both liver cancer and mesothelioma as causes of death, the first pathologist changed his mind and accepted our expert’s findings.
“Sadly, my client died before he was able to see his fight for justice succeed,” said Edmund. “As he was already suffering with unrelated liver cancer, it was determined that the mesothelioma would not significantly reduce his life expectancy and as such, his settlement was lower than it could have been. However, if there is any good to come from this case it is that a number of charities will hopefully benefit from the money he so generously left them.”
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.
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