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Damages awarded to Claimant as asbestos case is settled after three and half years (11 February 2019)

Date: 11/02/2019
Duncan Lewis, Main Solicitors, Damages awarded to Claimant as asbestos case is settled after three and half years

Our client, the Claimant, suffered from the lung disease - plural thickening - as a result of working with asbestos earlier in his life. After nearly three and half years the Defendants have finally accepted blame and made an offer of damages to the Claimant.

The Claimant was a retired 67-year-old when he found out that he had plural thickening. In addition to this he was also diagnosed with cancer and was told that he did not have long left to live. The urgency of this claim was therefore paramount; however, the Defendants never seemed to recognise this urgency despite it being a matter of life and death.

The Claimant worked and trained as a pipe fitter and then as a gas/arc fitter and welders mate for roughly 45 different companies over the course of his career. The industry allowed him to move from company to company in order to complete various jobs.

He began working for the first Defendant in the 1960s. The Construction (General Provisions) Regulations 1961 and the Construction (Working Places) Regulations 1966 applied in this case and later the Asbestos Regulations 1969, where guidance on the quantitative limits for asbestos dust exposure was first given. The duties imposed under these regulations were far wider than any previous legislation and applied to all factories, building operations, and works of engineering construction. They imposed stringent requirements with regard to preventing the inhalation of asbestos fibres. The Claimant continued to work with asbestos without any protection. He wore no mask or any sort of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), and there weren’t any signs of the dangers that asbestos can cause. He would use his bare hands to rip off asbestos plastering from old pipes and replace them with new pipes. He recalls other labourers sweeping the dust into the air and when he would return home he would be covered in asbestos from head to toe.

The Claimant then began working for the second Defendant, again carrying out similar tasks, including removing asbestos lagging with his own bare hands as there were no gloves provided. At the time the Claimant had no awareness what dangers could lead to being exposed to asbestos later on down the line.

Fast forward 45 years and the Claimant experienced heavy breathing problems since retiring. He noticed he would struggle to walk down the street at a normal pace or even climb the stairs. He decided to ask the GP for a referral to the hospital to see what going on. Following a chest x-ray, it was revealed that he had right sided plural thickening. When he was asked by the consultants whether he worked with asbestos he confirmed he had done so in the earlier years of his life.

The Claimant’s world came tumbling down. He had just retired and was told not only that he had plural thickening but that there is no cure, it could get worse and he could even die.

The Defendants had taken so long to pay the Claimant because they did not believe he worked for them even though we produced his HMRC records confirming employment. The Defendants wanted further evidence as to which division he worked for and details of pay slips.

Records that far back would no longer be available, luckily the HMRC retained facing cards; these are the original documents that were filed by the Defendants to confirm that the Claimant worked for them. Only after retrieving these from the HMRC were the Defendants willing to accept that the Claimant worked for them.

The Defendants raised several other issues relating to the Claimant’s other health issues, but they never saw an urgency to conclude his claim due to his ill-health. After court proceedings were issued and just before the “show cause” hearing, there were no arguments they could put forward. We had done everything in our power to prove our case by obtaining detailed witness evidence and medical evidence which supported the Claimant’s claim.

As a result, the Defendants finally decided to pay an interim payment to the Claimant and then a few months later settled the Claimant’s claim. This was a huge relief for the Claimant who planned to go on holiday or a cruise and spend his last few months able to enjoy his money.

The Claimant’s solicitor, Nilma Shah gives her opinion on the outcome of this case;

“This case just goes to show how difficult it is for asbestos clients to prove their claim as well as the work and time that must go in to settle the claim even when you have all the evidence needed. As his solicitor I always had in the back of my mind that we must keep fighting and never give up.”

Nilma Shah is an experienced Solicitor in the Personal Injury/ Clinical Negligence and Litigation departments at Duncan Lewis with more than 5 years PQE. She regularly handles different types of serious injury claims, providing legal representation to clients who have suffered negligence- and have sustained serious injuries, from birth injury claims to misdiagnosis claims.

Contact Nilma on 020 3114 1274 or via email on nilmap@duncanlewis.com.

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