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Mesothelioma victim's widow wins fight for justice
The widow of a Surrey man who died from a fatal lung cancer after being exposed to asbestos through his work more than 50 years ago has received £130,000 in an out of court settlement.
Edmund Young, an industrial disease expert at Fentons Solicitors LLP, said his client, who is in her 80s, took up the fight against her husband’s former employers following his death from mesothelioma in June 2010. As her husband had died without making a statement regarding his previous asbestos exposure, it was necessary to obtain anecdotal evidence from family members, which greatly helped in building a case to bring on behalf of his estate. Without such evidence the case would have failed.
“After having to witness the terrible pain her husband was put through as a direct result of his work with asbestos, my client was determined to hold his former employers to account for his suffering,” said Edmund, an associate with the firm.
“Her husband first noticed his health was deteriorating in April 2009 when he began suffering with chest pains and shortness of breath,” he added. “After an x-ray revealed a build-up of fluid in the tissue around his lungs and chest, his health steadily worsened over the next 12 months.”
In April 2010, after a series of scans the father-of-two, who was in his 70s, was diagnosed with malignant mesothelioma - a particularly painful and debilitating terminal lung cancer directly attributed to the inhalation of harmful asbestos fibres. He sadly died just two months later.
From 1956 until the mid 1960s the claimant’s husband worked as a decorator for a company involved with large-scale industrial and commercial refurbishments. “Much of his work took place in boiler rooms where he was tasked with removing asbestos pipe insulation using only a hammer and chisel,” said Edmund. “Naturally, this kind of work would produce large amounts of asbestos dust which he would inadvertently inhale on a daily basis.
“The atmosphere was often so thick with dust that he and his colleagues would astonishingly be given milk to drink to assist them in coping with the dusty conditions,” added Edmund. “As in so many of the industrial disease cases we handle involving workers who were exposed to asbestos in the 1950s and 60s, his employers never advised him of the risks of asbestos nor did they provide him with any kind of protective face mask or respiratory equipment.”
As is common with asbestos-related illnesses, the first telltale symptoms took several decades to appear. From January 2010, his condition dramatically worsened and he relied increasingly upon his two sons for assistance.
“My client suffers with chronic arthritis and relied on her husband as her main carer before he became ill,” said Edmund. “Before the onset of his symptoms he was a fit and healthy man who did all the domestic chores including the shopping, household maintenance and gardening. In the last few months of his life however, he was largely confined to his bed, he was in considerable pain and he required almost constant help and support throughout each day.
“This case was dependent on the outcome of the recent Supreme Court ruling in regard to so-called ‘trigger’ litigation,” added Edmund. “As a result of the judgement, the insurers of the firm who employed my client’s husband at the time he was exposed to asbestos were deemed responsible and ordered to pay his widow compensation for his suffering and subsequent death. Before the decision the insurers had attempted to argue that under the terms of their policy they were not liable to pay.”
Edmund settled the claim on behalf of his client for £130,000 in March 2012.In addition, an award was obtained from the Department for Work and Pensions in respect of her husband’s fatal condition in the sum of £9,947 under the Pneumoconiosis Compensation Scheme.
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