Damages for asbestos victimís family after claim was initially rejected

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Damages for asbestos victimís family after claim was initially rejected

17th June 2013

The family of an Essex man who died from an asbestos-related cancer because of work he carried out in the 1960s and 70s has received substantial damages in an out of court settlement.

James Fields, of Saffron Walden, was diagnosed with mesothelioma in February 2010. The painful lung cancer is only ever caused by exposure to asbestos, and so Mr Fields instructed solicitors to begin legal proceedings against his former employers. Sadly he succumbed to his illness in November 2010 at the age of 72.

When the firm of solicitors he initially instructed told him he had no case, his son Brendan took up his father’s fight for justice and approached Fentons Solicitors LLP, who took on the claim.

“Dad worked as a self-employed painter and decorator in the 1960s and 70s,” said Brendan Fields, 50, of de Vigier Avenue, Saffron Walden. “Between 1961 and 1964 he painted asbestos-lagged pipework for Jenner Brothers Ltd, an Ilford-based building firm who had a contract with Harlow Town Council building housing estates.

“Dad was often covered in asbestos fibres as he had to brush the pipe lagging down before he could begin painting. On top of this there were always carpenters and plumbers cutting up sheets of asbestos beside him. Even though the air was often thick with dust as a result, he was never given a mask, there was no dust extraction equipment on site and he was never warned that asbestos was dangerous.”

Mr Fields said that during the 1970s, his father was exposed again when he carried out painting and artexing work for a building firm based in Enfield, who insisted he used a specific brand of artex which contained asbestos.

“Put simply, Dad had no option but to expose himself to asbestos as it was part of his contract,” said Mr Fields. “He told us that when he mixed the artex powder with hot water to make a paste, great clouds of dust were produced but like his previous job, he was never warned of the risks of asbestos exposure and there was no extraction system in place to clean the air.”

After suffering breathlessness and chest pains towards the end of 2009, Mr Fields’ father had an x-ray which revealed he had more than a litre of fluid in his left lung. Following an operation to drain his lung a biopsy confirmed he had mesothelioma.

“Over the next eight months, despite undergoing two sessions of chemotherapy and Mum working tirelessly to look after him, Dad’s health deteriorated really fast,” said Mr Fields. “Thankfully he came home after a week in hospital shortly before he died, and we feel fortunate he was at least able to spend his last few days with those he loved.” ††

Peter Olszewski, a mesothelioma expert at Fentons Solicitors LLP, who represented the Fields family said: “Mr Fields was exposed to asbestos at a number of firms across London, Essex and Hertfordshire throughout the 1960s and 70s. Unfortunately, because of the amount of time it can take for asbestos-related cancer symptoms to appear, it is often extremely difficult tracking down a firm’s insurers from the time victims were exposed.

“Though we were able to trace the insurers of Jenner Brothers Ltd, they tried to argue that they owed no duty of care to Mr Fields as he had been a sub-contractor at the time and not an employee,” he said. “After we successfully rebutted their argument, they eventually admitted liability and we were able to settle the claim against them.

“Obviously no amount of money can ever compensate the Fields family for their loss,” said Mr Olszewski. “But by successfully pursuing Mr Fields’ claim for compensation we have held those responsible to account and it is hoped the settlement the family have now received will provide some comfort as they continue to move on with their lives.”