Pensioner wins compensation after asbestos exposure led to mesothelioma

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Pensioner wins compensation after asbestos exposure led to mesothelioma

14th October 2009

A pensioner from Barking has received £140,000 in compensation after developing a cancer caused by work he did almost half a century ago - for just six weeks.

It was only last year when the 69-year-old learned he was suffering from mesothelioma, a painful form of lung cancer caused by exposure to asbestos.

"I was having some chest problems," said the man, who prefers not to be named. "I thought I was suffering from pneumonia, and I was sent for a chest x-ray by my doctor. In August I went into hospital and it was noted that I had quite a lot of fluid on my left lung," he said. "I felt much better after the fluid had been drained."

In September 2008, he returned to hospital to have fluid drained from his chest for a second time. It was then that doctors carried out a lung biopsy.

"On 23 September 2008, I was informed that I had been diagnosed with mesothelioma," he said.

Mesothelioma is a form of cancer virtually always caused by earlier exposure to asbestos. It is widely believed as little as one asbestos fibre can lead to the disease developing.

"The only time that I was exposed to asbestos was doing some work back in 1961," said the pensioner. "I worked for Cape Asbestos, based at their site at Cape Close in Barking. I worked on the docks unloading sacks of asbestos from barges.

"We used large metal hooks to pick up and unload the hessian sacks," he said. "The metal hooks would drag and tear the sacks, and asbestos dust and fibres would go everywhere - in my hair, my clothes, my mouth."
"Whenever the sacks were moved around or dropped to the floor, they would throw up a cloud of dust."

Following his brief employment with Cape Asbestos, he did not work with asbestos at any other time during the rest of his career.

"When I was first told the diagnosis I was extremely shocked," he said. "I'd had a number of chest x-rays over the years and no problem with my lungs had ever been mentioned before."

Dominic Graham, an industrial disease specialist with Fentons Solicitors LLP, said the case was one of the most shocking he had ever seen.

"It takes many years after exposure to asbestos before any related disease becomes apparent," he said. "Although it is not uncommon to take 40 years or more to develop from the time of exposure, the fact that our client only worked in his job for six weeks is particularly unfortunate."

Mr Graham, who for many years has worked with sufferers of industrial diseases, said the case acted as a stark reminder of the legacy of asbestos.

"It is widely documented that even the smallest level of exposure can lead to mesothelioma, but for the work someone did in their early twenties - and particularly for just a few weeks - to lead to the cancer in this way is desperately sad.," he said. "All this man did was go to work."

Mr Graham said he was particularly pleased with the speed the settlement had been negotiated. "Given the severity of the illness, this claim had to be progressed quickly," he said.

"We sent the letter of claim in October 2008, but the defendant denied liability throughout. We were forced to issue High Court proceedings in June this year - eight months after the letter of claim had been sent," he said. "Happily, we were subsequently able to agree damages without the need for a trial."

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

If you think that you have a case or require further information, contact Fentons on 0800 019 1297 or fill in the online claims questionnaire.