Asbestos Justice concluded a mesothelioma claim for 55 year old, Terry Cork who was diagnosed with asbestos related mesothelioma at the Royal Brompton hospital during June of 2013. He recalls,
“In early 2013 I found that I was struggling to breathe properly. I suffered with breathlessness and struggled to walk up the stairs. I realised that this was problematic as I was only 53 years of age at the time. Eventually I had no choice but to attend upon the Accident & Emergency Department at my local hospital on the 7th May 2013. I was admitted for 8 days whilst various tests were carried out. I had a biopsy which revealed I was suffering with mesothelioma on the 7th June 2013.”
Mr. Cork experienced his asbestos exposure relatively late in the day between 1978 and 1980 approximately. As with any asbestos claim it was vital to obtain as much evidence of Mr Cork’s exposure as possible. He confirmed in his statement,
“I was employed by Higgins & Cattle Company Limited during this time. I was employed as a pipe fitter’s assistant on a full-time basis and worked under a fully qualified fitter and welder.
I can recall working in various establishments and buildings whilst working for the company.
The nature of my work involved spending the majority of my time replacing pipework and boilers in the plant room, cellar or boiler room at the various establishments where I worked.
I can recall that asbestos was mentioned by my work colleagues during my employment. I specifically recall my colleagues stating that there was asbestos lagging around the old pipework at a number of sites where I worked. Asbestos was the most commonly used historical lagging material back in the day.”
At the time of exposure, Mr Cork was only a young 18 year doing what he was told. He remembers being exposed to asbestos when working on a large office block on Buckingham Palace Road opposite Buckingham Palace in London. Specifically, he recalls working in the plant room which essentially took the form of a cellar bellow ground level.
This was an old, possibly Victorian, building with existing pipework leading from the boiler in the plant room below ground level. The pipework was lagged with asbestos insulation. One of the fitters specifically mentioned that the lagging was asbestos.
His own role involved stripping out the old pipework and boiler as well as fitting the new pipework and boiler in the plant room, where there was a vast amount of pipes leading from the boiler which varied in size, measuring from around 4 inches in diameter down to 2 inches in diameter.
He remembers the pipework being lagged with around 2 inches of set asbestos insulation which looked in an old, damaged state. Before any new heating system could be installed, Mr Cork explained,
“My colleagues and I would use hacksaws and stilson’s wrenches to release the pipes from the boilers and walls. Most of the pipework could be unscrewed using the wrenches which came in different sizes from 12 to 14 inches up to 48 inches. Where the pipework could not be unscrewed from the joints we would have to use a hacksaw to cut through the length of pipe.
When I used the wrench to remove the section of pipework this would then drop to the floor and the asbestos insulation around the pipe would break off resulting in asbestos dust being released into the general atmosphere which I could not help but inhale.
Likewise, when I cut through the pipe, the asbestos lagging would have to be cut through as part of the process and this resulted in further large amounts of asbestos dust being released into the general atmosphere.
I also remember being exposed to asbestos dust in the same way on this contract when working in the tank room which housed water tanks on the roof of the 4 storey building. The pipework in there was also lagged with the same asbestos insulation and had to be removed using the same tools.”
Mr Cork’s story is sadly far too common and shows that workers were still being exposed to substantial quantities of asbestos dust deep into the late 1970s. The use of white asbestos was not banned in the UK until 1999 and, therefore, in theory, many other people could have suffered exposure to asbestos throughout the 80s and 90s. It is thought that asbestos related illness diagnoses will not peak until 2020.
Further information was obtained from Mr Cork who remembers working on older hospitals for the company when once again the main part of his job involved working within plant rooms. He can remember working at the plant room at the Hither Green hospital near Lewisham which had an old heating system which was lagged with asbestos.
Whilst he did not strip the asbestos lagging there, he still had cause to either stand on or brush past the asbestos covered pipes in doing his work which resulted in some asbestos fibres being released into the general atmosphere. As his asbestos exposure occurred after October of 1965 we only had to show that he was exposed to more than minimal amounts of asbestos dust when working for his employer, in order to establish liability in his mesothelioma claim.
Mr Cork also experienced exposure to asbestos as a result of working next to other workers. He stated,
“There would often be other tradesmen working at the same site as my colleagues and I. There would be electricians and labourers coming and going throughout the day and I recall on occasions that laggers would sometimes be on site or had only just left.
The laggers were involved in reapplying insulation materials to the pipework and boilers which had been removed. I cannot be sure whether fresh asbestos was used for insulation purposes but on occasion I do remember seeing dust left on the floor after they had been attending to their duties which could well have been asbestos dust. As we walked through the dust, this would rise up once more and we all breathed in the particles.
At no point was I provided with a face mask or any other form of breathing apparatus by the company, nor was I ever warned of the dangers of inhaling asbestos dust by my employer. I was a young man at the time and was simply getting on with my job. It would never have entered my head to complain about the working conditions.”
Thankfully, after the evidence was presented to the Defendant insurers in Mr Cork’s case, liability was admitted early. We managed to secure over £100,000.00 as an interim compensation payment for Mr Cork to assist him.
Before being diagnosed with mesothelioma, Mr Cork previously worked as a self-employed bathroom fitter. His condition stopped him from working and, therefore, it was vital to secure early mesothelioma compensation to ensure that he was able to meet his financial obligations.
Mr Cork was initially told that his prognosis could be as short as 9 months, now, 2 years on, his condition remains stable and over that time he has been able to enjoy life to the full, travelling around the world as much as possible.
He is a keen cricket and football fan and has visited Australia on multiple occasions, managing to watch the cricket World Cup when staying out there. He has also been able to travel to Egypt, Bulgaria, Bali and Thailand following the settlement of his asbestos claim.
He intends to return to “Oz” to watch Robbie Williams in concert during October of this year.
Mr. Cork wrote,
“Obviously being diagnosed with any cancer is frightening and asbestos related mesothelioma is incurable so I was searching for a company that was sympathetic and quick to act. I felt comfortable with your firm as you guided me through the stages including a home visit for initial support.
My solicitor, James Cameron has been the most helpful person, always completely patient and polite. Its difficult remembering events over 30 years ago but I never felt under pressure to provide any more information than I could. I was offered all sorts of advice on how to claim certain benefits and all form filling was clearly marked out and my settlement was swift with my financial worries alleviated.
Thanks to your work on my case I have had an amazing two years so far and would recommend your company to anyone who is in a similar position to me.”