Mesothelioma case settles just months before electrician's death

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Mesothelioma case settles just months before electrician's death

19th October 2011

An electrician who was exposed to asbestos throughout his three decade career with a family firm received more than £200,000 in an out of court settlement just months before his death.

Lesley Mynett, a specialist industrial disease lawyer with Fentons Solicitors LLP, said the man, who was in his 60s, developed mesothelioma after spending 28 years working for the same electrical company.

“My client undertook an apprenticeship between 1966 and 1971, also attending a day release course at a local college,” said Lesley, an associate with the firm. “Following his qualification as an electrician, he continued to work for the firm until 1993, when he decided to become self-employed.”

She said her client had always been a fit and healthy man, but in 2009 he developed a persistent cough.  “He began to cough up phlegm and was initially diagnosed with a polyp in his nose,” said Lesley. “He was treated with tablets for several weeks, but when he still had the cough after three months he returned to see a different doctor who referred him for a chest x-ray.

“Two days later he was admitted to hospital to have his lung drained. He was advised that there were some ‘abnormal cells’, and a few weeks later he underwent a further drain and a biopsy,” she said. “In January last year, he was diagnosed with asbestos-related mesothelioma.”

When investigating the man’s work history, Lesley said it was clear that he had been exposed to deadly asbestos during his time with the electrical firm. “Once he became self-employed he only ever undertook domestic work,” she said, “but during his 28 years with the firm he was exposed on numerous occasions through commercial jobs.”

“One of the main contracts that the firm had was the undertaking of commercial electrical work for a nearby college,” explained Lesley. “My client’s firm was sub-contracted by a plumbing company which had the main maintenance contract, to carry out the electrical work alongside its own employees.”

Lesley said the majority of this work involved the maintenance and replacement of electrical wiring at the college, which often required her client to work in boiler houses - where the boilers and all of the pipe work were crucially lagged with old asbestos.

“He would work immediately alongside plumbers who would be cutting away asbestos lagging with hack saws to expose the pipe work beneath,” said Lesley. “This would cause asbestos dust and fibres to be emitted into the air in the confined spaces within the boiler houses.

“My client was not provided with any mask or warned about the potential dangers of asbestos exposure and, consequently, he would breathe in the asbestos dust and fibres which he came into contact with.”

Lesley said her client himself would also cut asbestos lagging and pull it away from pipe work in order to access wiring that he needed to work on.  “He would do this by hand and so asbestos would not only be in the atmosphere but also on his hands and clothing,” she said. “Once a year he would have to clean out the boilers at each site - which would involve scraping and disturbing the asbestos lagging – and he was also exposed in other ways, such as from moving and cutting through ceiling tiles, drilling through asbestos soffits and disturbing the lagging throughout the college.”

Following his diagnosis, the electrician tried to continue working on a self-employed basis, despite suffering worsening symptoms including breathlessness, tiredness and hot flushes.

“The defendant insurers would not admit liability for my client’s condition,” said Lesley. “During the 28 years he was employed by the defendant, there was a period of 8 years during which the firm claimed its insurance did not cover him as he was working on a self-employed basis. But by demonstrating they were liable for the majority of those 28 years, we were thankfully able to secure interim payments of almost £100,000 to enable my client to stop work and undergo medical treatment.”

“After we issued High Court proceedings, we secured a judgment in favour of my client and negotiated a final settlement in excess of £200,000.”

Sadly, the client’s health continued to deteriorate rapidly following the settlement, and he succumbed to his illness just over six months later.

“This man and his devoted wife were robbed of their future together, through no fault of their own,” said Lesley. “He was a dedicated and conscientious worker, and the work that he carried out for those 28 years ended up claiming his life.

”The only comfort to be taken from this was that my client and his wife could spend the remaining few months they had together without worrying about their financial situation, but that is scant consolation for my client’s widow.”

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

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.