Council bosses in Leeds could be faced with a £100,000 compensation bill amid claims a former worker died after inhaling deadly asbestos while playing table tennis on her break.
The family of Sheila Dobson have launched the legal action after she allegedly breathed in the lethal substance while working for the authority 45 years ago.
The action could open the floodgates for more compensation battles if other staff are found to have contracted the killer lung condition, mesothelioma.
Mrs Dobson, who worked at the council’s Youth Employment Office between 1967 and 1971, died from the rare form of cancer in October 2009, aged 59.
Her family say while working at the council offices at the junction of Great George Street and Calverley Street, she would visit the canteen in the basement, where she would play table tennis with her co-workers during tea and lunch breaks.
The claim, which has been lodged with London’s Royal Courts of Justice, says: “There was a boiler and pipework which was lagged with asbestos based insulation.
“The lagging was in poor condition.
“Significant quantities of respirable asbestos fibres and dust were shed from the lagging as a result of vibration, physical contact and air movement within the basement.”
The claim, issued by relatives, who live in east Leeds, alleges Mrs Dobson was never warned about exposure to asbestos or given any protective equipment.
She first developed symptoms of the industrial lung disease in November 2007, when she developed a chest pain which gradually worsened.
In 2009, she underwent radiotherapy but died later that year.
The claim is for in excess of £50,000 in damages. This could rise to anything up to £100,000 depending on the court’s decision.
A spokeswoman for Leeds City Council said: “As this is an ongoing legal issue we are unable to comment at this stage.”