Family of man exposed to asbestos as a child in mesothelioma settlement

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Family of man exposed to asbestos as a child in mesothelioma settlement

1st August 2013

The family of a man who died from mesothelioma after he was unwittingly exposed to asbestos as a child through his father’s work has received £185,000 in an out of court settlement.

Sadly, the Berkshire man died in March 2013 - just three months before his claim was settled.

Peter Olszewski, a specialist industrial disease lawyer at Fentons Solicitors LLP, said his client, who was in his 50s, started his claim for compensation shortly after he was diagnosed with mesothelioma in October 2011.

“My client’s father was employed as a school caretaker from the mid-1950s up until the late 1970s,” he said. “As part of his job, he was required to clean the school’s two large coal-burning boilers out each year during the school summer holidays.

“To clean the boilers - which each measured eight feet tall and five feet wide - he first had to climb inside them via a hinged door at their front. Using wire brushes and scrapers he then had to remove all the limescale that had built up inside them. As each boiler was lined with asbestos, every time he removed any limescale, he inevitably ended up scraping bits of the asbestos lining off as well.

“Cleaning the boilers was extremely dusty work and would take two or three days to complete,” added Peter. “Due to the unventilated bunker-style layout of the boiler room there was nowhere for the dust to go and as a result my client’s father’s hair and overalls were always thick with limescale and asbestos dust.”

Peter said that as well as an annual salary, the claimant’s father was also provided with a three-bedroom house on the school grounds for his family to live in. “During the summer holidays, my client would bring his father his lunch and often sit in the boiler room chatting and watching his father work.

“When his father came home each day his mother would shake all the asbestos dust out of her husband’s overalls in the kitchen before putting his clothes in the washing machine,” he said. “As a result, the kitchen would end up covered with asbestos fibres and his mother would have to use a dustpan and brush to tidy up.”

In August 2011, the claimant was involved in a road accident and suffered a collapsed lung. After undergoing a chest x-ray he was told he had over four litres of fluid in his left lung and would need an operation to have it drained.  Within a few weeks, he started feeling breathless and after another x-ray, was told that his lung had filled up again. When he had a second operation to drain another several litres of fluid from his lung he felt fine for a couple of weeks. But when his symptoms returned, a biopsy was taken and he was diagnosed with mesothelioma.

Peter said that when his client was told his condition was fatal and that he only had six months to live, he had never even heard of mesothelioma. “Sadly we’ve dealt with a large number of similar cases in which a mesothelioma diagnosis has been met with complete shock as the victims themselves have never worked in any of the industries typically associated with the disease.

“As is the case with so many mesothelioma sufferers following diagnosis, my client’s health rapidly deteriorated and along with severe chest pains and breathlessness, he also found it extremely painful to speak or swallow,” he said. “In the last few months of his life, during which time he was cared for by his wife and son, he lost his speech entirely and spent most of his time at home.

“This case was another tragic example where the victims themselves were unwittingly exposed to asbestos by their loved ones, often several years ago,” he added. “It’s very important these cases are highlighted so that families are aware that asbestos doesn’t simply represent a significant threat to those exposed at work, but also to their wives and children.

“My client’s father was never told that asbestos was harmful or that his son should stay away from the boiler room,” said Peter. “As a result, his son was exposed to the deadly material as a child and went on to develop this most cruel of diseases. After we traced the local authority responsible for the school, we obtained a full admission of liability and managed to negotiate their initial offer to settle the claim for £120,000 up to £185,000.

“Although, my client’s wife and son understandably remain devastated at the loss of their husband and father, it is hoped that their knowledge that his father’s former employer has finally been held to account for exposing him to asbestos, may at least provide some comfort as they attempt to move on with their lives.”

How can Fentons Solicitors help?

Fentons has a specialist department experienced in handling claims for victims of industrial diseases including asbestos-related illnesses such as 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.