At Asbestos Justice, we are pleased to report that we have recently succeeded in a mesothelioma claim for a client who tragically lost his father to the incurable asbestos related disease on 17th July 2014.
Circumstances of the Deceased’s Exposure to Asbestos
13th November 1967 to 25th March 1988 approximately
The deceased worked on a full-time basis for British Rail at their Springburn depot in Glasgow between 13th November 1967 and the 25th March 1988 when he retired from service. This was the only employer he worked for during this period.
We obtained witness evidence in support of the mesothelioma claim which showed that the deceased’s work as a coachbuilder was varied. His role involved him spending some time in the cabinet and trimming shop where repairs were carried out on cabinets and seats from carriages.
As a coachbuilder, the deceased spent time in the main carriage shop at the Springburn site which is where the carriages came in for repairs and refurbishment. This was a large area which looked similar to an actual train station with different platforms and roads running throughout the main carriage shop. Different stages of refurbishment work would be carried out within the separate areas of the shop.
Some carriages would arrive at the shop and remain for a number of weeks to allow for a full refit to be completed, whilst other carriages would arrive and be sent back after short periods of work. It is at this location that the deceased encountered exposure to asbestos as a coachbuilder.
The deceased was exposed to both blue and white asbestos when working within the main carriage shop at the Springburn site and this was relied upon as proof of negligence and breach of statutory duty in the claim for mesothelioma compensation. The blue asbestos was present between the outside panel and inside panels on the carriages. This had been spread onto the inside of the panels in a paste type form and would set. It was used for fire retardant purposes in those days.
Witness evidence obtained in support of the asbestos claim showed that part of the deceased’s work involved dismantling carriages which included the panels present on the carriages. The panels would become damaged over time and would need to be replaced by the deceased and his colleagues. The deceased and other coachbuilders would use panel strippers to do this work. They fitted this into the corner of each panel which had been pinned on to check whether asbestos was present between the outside and internal panels. The set asbestos became damaged and friable over time resulting in dust creation.
The process of pulling the panel back with the panel stripper resulted in a lot of asbestos dust being released into the general working environment which the deceased and his colleagues could not help but inhale. He completed this type of work up until around the late 1960s when the work was transferred to a specific asbestos stripping department to deal with. By this time, of course, the damage had already been done and decades later, tragically the deceased developed asbestos related mesothelioma
The deceased was never told that either blue or white asbestos dust was harmful to breathe in by the Defendant.
The deceased also spent time within the fitting department where he encountered white asbestos. This came in the form of sheets measuring around 6 feet in length by 8 feet in height with a thickness of around 2 inches. These were used for lining the underside of seats in train carriages where heaters were present. They were stocked in the store room on site. The asbestos sheeting was being used as an effective, cheap, fire retardant material and to ensure that the heaters were not overheating.
Both the deceased and his other coachbuilder colleagues had to fit the white asbestos sheets to the seats. The sheets were fibrous and brittle and they used handsaws to cut through the sheets to carve out the appropriate size for each seat. The insulation sheet would fit into brackets underneath the seats. As the deceased and his colleagues cut through the asbestos sheets, lots of asbestos dust was released into the atmosphere throughout the course of a working day spent doing this type of work. The cutting work would either take place in the confined environment of the carriage or on tresses just outside if a number of sheets needed to be refitted.
Before fitting the new sheets, the deceased and other coachbuilders near to him would have to remove old asbestos sheets from the top of the heater underneath the seat to allow for the new sheet to be fitted. To do this, they would smash through the old sheet with a hammer to loosen the brackets and this would then lift off. The hammering activity caused further fibrous asbestos dust to rise up into the working environment which the deceased inhaled.
When working on the nightshift as a coachbuilder, the deceased spent time working on blue electric trains. Most of his time was spent working the nightshift. Our client was able to recall his late father coming in from work around 8:00am each day on average. Sometimes he would be later. On this shift, he was once again involved in the refurbishment of the trains. It was common for the metal skirting running along the bottom of each train to rust and he and his colleagues would use airguns to cut away at the old skirting. When cutting through the skirting, the deceased would also cut through asbestos insulation material which was present between inner and outer skins of the coaches. When he did this work, puffs of white asbestos dust would rise up into the atmosphere which he and his colleagues inhaled. As part of the same task in his role as a coachbuilder, the deceased would have to remove the skirting completely. He and his colleagues would use a hammer and chisel to break the welds which held the train panels into place. As a result of doing this, the insulation material behind would fall out and break up on the floor near to him which resulted in further asbestos dust being released into the atmosphere which he and his colleagues inhaled. He would then scrape the rest of the asbestos insulation material off the panel with any tool available to create a smooth surface to allow for new panels to be riveted into place.
Our client could also remember his father being offered increased rates of pay for doing other work at the Springburn site involving work with asbestos. This involved him working on damaged electric coaches in the late 1960s to early 1970s and he would need to remove damaged asbestos panels on the coaches. He used air pressured saws, hammers and chisels to break the welds in his role and when removing them. When using the tools, further asbestos dust would become airborne which he inhaled when doing this type of work.
The witness evidence obtained in support of the allegations made in the mesothelioma claim showed that at some point an area was built on site where carriages would be taken for blue asbestos to be removed. This was towards the late 1960s but the deceased continued working with white asbestos sheets in his work throughout the early 1970s and he was never told that this was harmful to his health. Our client can remember his mother being concerned about asbestos when his father worked there as some workers in the asbestos stripping department would be wearing full asbestos protective boiler suits when doing their work. The deceased did not wear full protective clothing when cutting through the white asbestos sheets when refurbishing the carriages.
From the start of his employment, right the way through to the late 1970s the deceased was never provided with any form of adequate mask to wear by the Defendant. This was also relied upon as proof of negligence and breach of statutory duty in the successful mesothelioma claim. Our client believed thin paper masks may have been brought in later in the day.
The deceased also breathed in further asbestos dust in his role as a coachbuilder as a result of being near to labourers and apprentices who were sweeping up dust, debris and mess from the site floor. Some of this dust and debris was asbestos dust which rose up into the general working environment resulting in the deceased and his colleagues breathing in the harmful fibres once more.
Problems on the Medical Side
This mesothelioma claim was complex due to omissions made at the time of the deceased’s post mortem and the difficulties are summarised below:-
- At Post Mortem, histological investigations were not undertaken but a likely diagnosis of mesothelioma was made. This was insufficient to prove blame on the part of British Rail and further evidence was required to support the mesothelioma claim.
- Some of the deceased’s medical records suggested that he was suffering with lung cancer rather than mesothelioma during life. This again, caused problems in proving this mesothelioma claim.
- The deceased sadly passed away on 17th July 2014. It was confirmed at Post Mortem that histology would need to be carried out, but the Procurator Fiscal in Scotland did not arrange for the histological investigations to be undertaken. It seems that the deceased was diagnosed with mesothelioma on a radiological and clinical basis and it was confirmed that it was not always possible to confirm a diagnosis by way of small sample biopsies. On the basis of the post death investigations, there was insufficient evidence to prove the claim for mesothelioma compensation.
Thankfully, the materials taken at post mortem were retained and were sent to a histopathologist for review in the mesothelioma claim which confirmed that the histological make-up of the tumour was indeed more likely to be mesothelioma, rather than lung cancer. This provided strong evidence in support of the claim for mesothelioma compensation which succeeded within 9 months of us receiving instructions from the client to act on his behalf in his mesothelioma claim.
Whilst no amount of money can compensate a client for the loss of a loved one in such tragic circumstances, it is important to succeed in asbestos claims of this type to achieve a degree of accountability, securing some form of justice.
If you require assistance in pursuing a mesothelioma claim or believe you have any other valid asbestos claim please contact us today on our freephone number 0800 038 6767. Alternatively, head over to the ‘Contact Us’ page, complete the form and we will be in touch.