Widow Receives Gross Award of £60,000 for Husband Who Died of Asbestosis
We acted for Mr F who contacted us in early 2014. He was diagnosed with lung cancer in March 2013, following which he had radiotherapy. A biopsy was never performed during his life time because he suffered with other conditions (namely Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease and Spondylitis). He could only walk a few yards once he was diagnosed and could not do any strenuous activity.
We instructed a respiratory physician to prepare a report on his condition and the expert confirmed that Mr F was suffering from lung cancer and that on the balance of probabilities, the lung cancer was asbestos related.
Wescol Construction Company Limited/Wescol Construction (Yorks) Limited
Mr F came into contact with his asbestos during his time with Wescol Construction Co Limited/Wescol Construction (Yorks) Limited. He started as an apprentice joiner and the business was the manufacture of the sale of garages which were made of asbestos sheeting. Asbestos sheets were used and then fitted on to wooden frames. The Company premises were in a disused quarry. Mr F reported that hundreds of asbestos sheets were brought to the quarry by lorry. It was his job to saw the asbestos sheets to size depending on the size of the garage being constructed. He sawed the sheets for most of the day and this created clouds of dust which got in his clothes, hands, and face. Even if he was not sawing the sheets himself, he was often in the vicinity of the other apprentices and the joiners who were also sawing the sheets. He did this work for an 18 month period between or around 1953 to 1956.
Mr F then moved to demolition duties for the same Company. This involved demolishing old Army camps. The main demolition tool was a ball and chain machine. When he came across asbestos, he separated asbestos debris from pipe work, (much of which was lagged with asbestos). He had to sought the pipe work by hand and load it back on to the lorries. He was regularly breaking up asbestos materials during the demolition work as many of the buildings contained asbestos such as asbestos corrugated roofing sheets. This was dusty work.
He returned to Wescol for a few months in 1965/65, doing exactly the same job as previously, cutting asbestos sheets by handsaw and doing demolition work which involved the separation of asbestos debris from materials that were salvageable.
He then returned to Wescol in 1979 and worked there until he retired from a back injury in December 1987. He told us that he came into asbestos during his time at Wescol until at least 1985 when he went into the paint spraying section of the Company.
Mr F like many others, used to smoke from his mid 20s. He started on roll up cigarettes, but soon switched to a pipe. He did not consider himself to be a heavy smoker.
No Trace of Lung Cancer
Mr F’s condition worsened and he died in July 2014. The post-mortem could not find any trace of a lung tumour, but did report asbestosis. We had the post-mortem, of course, examined by our medical expert, together with the updated medical records, test results and scans. Our expert agreed with the post-mortem that there was no evidence of lung cancer by the time of the post-mortem. It was possible that the radiotherapy had eradicated all symptoms of the tumour. Our expert agreed with the pathologist that Mr F had been suffering with asbestosis and he believed symptoms of asbestosis began in or around 1999.
Application for Industrial Injury Disability Benefit Turned Down
Although Mr F was never diagnosed with asbestosis during his lifetime, as he was short of breath, he masde a claim for Industrial Injuries Disablement Benefit. He made the Application in the 1980s and this was turned down. We applied for the file of papers from the relevant Social Security office to examine the Industrial Injuries Disablement Benefit papers. Within the papers, there were helpful comments, statements and letters from previous colleagues who had also worked at Wescol confirming that Mr F had been exposed to asbestos.
The two Wescol entities were dissolved companies. This meant that we needed to trace the employers’ liability insurers from 1953 until the asbestos exposure ended in approximately 1985. Employers’ liability insurance was only compulsory from 1972 onwards. There was also no requirement on insurers at that time to keep records of their insurers. We managed to trace insurers for the later period of employment and Mr F’s wife received a gross award of £60,000.
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