Asbestos Justice has once again succeeded in holding a local council to account in a mesothelioma claim. The matter was pursued by Mrs A, who sadly lost her husband to the incurable asbestos related condition on 24th November 2014.
Mr A was diagnosed as suffering with asbestos related mesothelioma after undergoing various investigations at his local hospital during October of 2014.
Mr A had suffered with a variety of symptoms connected to his diagnosis ever since July of 2014. His state of health deteriorated from August of 2014 onwards. Mr A complained of severe chest, back and shoulder pain as well as reduced appetite and weight loss with shortness of breath. Such debilitating symptoms are taken into account when we come to assess the financial value of any mesothelioma claim.
Mr A underwent x-rays and CT scans at hospital as well as a pleural biopsy procedure at the start of October in 2014. He also underwent two separate, particularly intrusive, pleural drainage procedures over the last couple of months of his life, which were carried out in an attempt to alleviate his breathing problems but to no avail.
Mr A had been in and out of hospital over the last couple of months of his life and he was eventually told of his diagnosis during October of 2014. The fact that Mr A had undergone such invasive procedures led to the value of the mesothelioma claim increasing.
Fortunately, before Mr A’s decline and after receiving expert guidance from ourselves, his daughter was able to speak to him in detail about his employment history and how he came into contact with airborne asbestos dust during the course of his working life. Whilst her father was unsure as to the precise dates of his employment with various companies, as well as in relation to his self-employed periods of work, he was able to recall the type of work he carried out for various entities.
We offered to visit the family to obtain the further information for the claim but Mrs A and her daughter preferred to deal with matters on the phone. Together, we were able to build up a vivid picture of how Mr A had been exposed to asbestos.
We obtained a copy of Mr A’s Inland Revenue work history which was forwarded to him and his daughter to review on 19th November 2014 and thankfully, this document referred to the precise dates of his employment with various employers.
When we initially speak to mesothelioma sufferers they are usually concerned that they are unable to recall their precise dates of employments with various employers. However, HMRC is obliged to provide us with client work histories within 14 days of receiving a request in mesothelioma claims. This allows for the mesothelioma claim process to be accelerated and assists us identifying the parties that should pay the mesothelioma compensation.
Using her father’s account of his exposure alongside his work history from the Inland Revenue, we were able to set out his account on his asbestos exposure.
Four to six months of asbestos exposure in 1966/67
Mr A’s Inland Revenue work history showed him as having worked for the Norwich Corporation for around 4 months during the 1966/67 tax year, this being the former name of Norwich City Council.
Mr A discussed his time working for the Norwich local authority in detail with his daughter and family and explained that he worked on a full-time basis as a carpenter for them and his usual hours of work were from 7.30am until 4.30pm, Monday to Friday.
In particular, he could remember working on one lengthy contract on a block of flats in Milecross, Norwich, during the course of his time with the council which resulted in him coming into contact with asbestos materials on an almost daily basis. He estimated that he worked on this contract solidly for around 6 months and he clearly remembered being paid by the local authority directly on the books. His work history confirmed this.
As Mr A’s asbestos exposure with the council occurred after October of 1965 there was only a need to show that he was exposed to more than minimal exposure to asbestos dust to establish blame in his mesothelioma claim. This key date, known as the “date of guilty knowledge” was referred to in the case when arguing for the mesothelioma compensation. The fact that the exposure occurred after this date strengthened the prospects of succeeding in the mesothelioma claim.
The witness evidence obtained described the flats Mr A was working on, which were being built from scratch and his job entailed working on the first and second fix. This involved fitting asbestos insulation to the inside of the structure of the building as well as partitions which segregated the common parts and individual flats from one another. He explained that there were 4 flats on the ground floor and another 4 on the first floor.
Mr A clearly remembered the name of the insulation boards he worked with on this contract. The boards were known to him and his colleagues as “Asbestolux” boards. They were under the impression at the time that the Asbestolux boards did not contain asbestos but it was alleged that they did contain some asbestos within their construction.
The misapprehension of workers, believing that this material did not contain asbestos, is all too common in asbestos claims. Workers appear to have been advised that the material did not contain asbestos when working with the boards. The Mr A described the boards he used as being a composite material made up of different things and our own knowledge in dealing with asbestos claims led us to believe that he had been exposed to some asbestos which was present within the make up of the Asbestolux boards.
When Mr A went through his work history he explained that he worked on this contract for around 6 months but could not be sure of the precise dates of his work. He did say that the main part of his job involved cutting the Asbestolux boards to size to be fitted to the interior walls of the flats to insulate the whole building. He believes they were also being used for fireproofing purposes. He told his daughter that the boards were always of a greyish colouration and came in various sizes.
He said that the Asbestolux boards were quite soft and fairly easy to cut through. He would always use a handsaw to cut through the Asbestolux boards. As he cut through the material, he said that much dust would be released into the atmosphere, some of which will have been asbestos dust.
He explained that the cutting work created clouds of dust which floated around in the general atmosphere, some of which will have been asbestos which formed part of the Asbestolux material. He inhaled the dust throughout the course of the working day.
After cutting the boards to size he said that he would have cause to nail the boards into place within the internal wall spaces. As he nailed through the Asbestolux, further asbestos dust would rise up into the atmosphere which he could not help but inhale throughout the course of the working day.
Mr A also explained to his daughter that the boards were used to form partition type wall structures in between each flat unit. They would also separate the flats from the communal areas. When he nailed the partitions into place, further asbestos dust would rise up into the atmosphere which he could not help but inhale.
At the end of the working day he explained that both he and his colleagues were responsible for leaving their work areas tidy and clean and they would use brushes to brush the dust that had been left behind. The dust included wood dust and some asbestos dust from the Asbestolux boards they worked with and as he brushed up the dust, further asbestos dust would rise up into the atmosphere which they all inhaled during the latter part of their working day.
Mr A advised that all forms of dust including the asbestos dust would cover his work clothes, hair and skin. He would leave work in a very dusty state at the end of each working day and some of this dust contained asbestos dust.
Throughout the course of what he estimated to have been a 6 month period of work he told his daughter that he was never provided with any warnings of the dangers of being exposed to harmful amounts of asbestos dust, nor was he ever provided with any mask or form of respiratory protection.
Such evidence supported the mesothelioma claim in showing that Mr A had suffered more than minimal exposure to asbestos dust in his work for the council.
Tragically, Mr A passed away only 3 weeks after we were instructed to deal with his mesothelioma claim. Thankfully, by that time, we had gathered enough evidence of his history of exposure to asbestos to support a claim for mesothelioma compensation to be pursued by his surviving widow.
Mrs A was able to bring a claim for mesothelioma compensation under the Law Reform and Fatal Accidents Acts and medical evidence was obtained in support of the claim. This showed that her late husband’s death could be connected to the asbestos exposure he experienced when working for the council.
After some negotiating with the council’s insurers, the mesothelioma claim was settled for £130,000.00 within a period of 7 months following instruction. The mesothelioma compensation recovered will ensure that Mrs A is financially secure in the future which was vital.
It was also a priority to hold the council to account for the tragic loss of her husband who passed away so suddenly due to the terrible disease.