Victory for widow of plasterer killed by asbestos exposure

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Victory for widow of plasterer killed by asbestos exposure

4th May 2011

The widow of a plasterer who died after being exposed to asbestos at work has received £130,000 in an out of court settlement.

The victim, who had been a plasterer since leaving school, developed the asbestos-related cancer mesothelioma through his work with a local company. He launched a legal battle for compensation following his diagnosis in June 2009, but died one year later before he was able to finish his fight. Following her tragic loss, the man's widow took up his battle for justice and has now claimed victory in her husband's name.

"This has been an awful time for the whole family," said Bridget Collier, an industrial disease specialist with Fentons Solicitors LLP, who was appointed by the plasterer to pursue a legal fight for compensation. "His wife and children are still just devastated by everything that has happened."

Bridget explained that her client had developed a cough just before Christmas in 2008. "He had bronchitis the year before and just thought it was a repeat of this," she said. "His GP gave him a course of antibiotics and then a second, stronger course, but after that he still had a constant cough. In February 2009, the doctor sent him for a chest x-ray which found two lumps on his lung. He was then sent for a biopsy."

Bridget said by this point her client was in a lot of pain and his wife became his full-time carer. "At one point she had to call an ambulance because of the pain he was in, and paramedics put a tube in his side and drained 10 litres of liquid from his lungs."

Biopsies later revealed three tumours, and the man was sent to hospital for further treatment. A further biopsy on the third tumour led to the devastating diagnosis of mesothelioma.

"It was immediately clear that this man's condition had been caused by repeated and prolonged exposure to asbestos," said Bridget. "We began contacting his former employers, but our letters went unanswered for a very long time. It was almost as if they didn't want to acknowledge that he had ever worked for them, let alone admit that he had been exposed to asbestos during that time."

Before his death, the victim was able to give Bridget an account of the work he had undertaken whilst working for a local plastering contractor firm. "One of the incidents he described was when he was part of team converting a former hotel into flats," said Bridget, a partner and head of the Industrial Disease department at Fentons. "He described in detail being shown some flats on the ninth floor and said they were literally 'dripping in brown asbestos.' He said it 'hung like honeycomb' and looked 'something like shredded wheat'.

"He said one day they arrived for work and the ninth floor was taped off with signs saying 'do not enter'," said Bridget. "He then described how the tape was ripped down and he and his colleagues were ordered to continue working there."

Bridget said another site was described by her client as 'the worst conditions he had ever worked in.' "He said he had been converting a building at a golf course into flats," she said. "He described how all the workers there had chest infections or eye and nose problems because the dust created 'a constant film in front of your face'. He said there was no protection at all, adding that they worked on that job - and in that dusty environment - for several months."

After issuing proceedings against her client's employer, Bridget said it was simply beyond belief how the company refused to respond. "At every point of the court case, they failed to comply with deadlines to disclose documents and information," she said. "The case was dragged on and on, showing apparent contempt and absolutely no sense of remorse for this man or his wife's situation."

She said the claim was complicated by the number of different insurers who had provided cover to the employer over the years. "In the end, several of the insurers agreed to settle the claim - against the wishes of the employer," she said. "No amount of money can make up for losing a loving and beloved husband and father in such a way, but by succeeding in pursuing his claim for compensation, we have finally held those responsible to account," she said.

"One of my client's major concerns was the financial security of his wife and grown-up daughters following his death. Now his wife and family can begin the difficult task of moving on with their lives without that worry, just as he hoped they would."

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