The family of a woman who developed asbestosis as a result of work she carried out during the Second World War has won compensation for her pain and suffering.

Doris Timbrell had worked assembling gas masks at a factory in Blackburn. This involved packing asbestos filters into the masks and stitching them into place. 

In 2004, she began to experience breathing difficulties. An X-ray showed that she had multiple pleural plaques, a common physical manifestation of asbestos exposure, in which scarring of the lungs is caused by penetration of asbestos fibres. Whilst the condition is almost always asymptomatic, those diagnosed with pleural plaques can go on to develop other asbestos related diseases.

Mrs Timbrell struggled to get up the stairs and experienced difficulty carrying out ordinary everyday tasks. As her condition worsened, she had to use an oxygen cylinder and became dependent on her daughter, Patricia Nicholas, for her care needs.

Mrs Timbrell died in 2008 of cancer of the oesophagus. Whilst it was accepted that her death was not related to exposure to asbestos, her daughter brought a claim against the Ministry of Defence (MoD) on account of the pain, suffering and loss of capacity suffered by her mother in the last years of her life as a result of her asbestos related illness.

The MoD admitted liability but argued that the claim was ‘out of time’ and that any compensation award would present Mrs Nicholas with a ‘windfall.

Mrs Nicholas argued that her mother had wanted to pursue a claim herself but the decline in her health meant that she was not physically strong enough to do so. She had not sought legal advice on her mother’s behalf because she was fully occupied in caring for her.

The High Court accepted that Mrs Timbrell had not commenced proceedings herself on account of her poor health and that her debilitating condition was a direct result of her exposure to asbestos.

Whilst this did not cause her death, compensation of £48,000 was awarded on account of the devastating impact it had on the quality of her life in her final years.

Contact us if you would like to discuss your entitlement to compensation if you have been diagnosed with an occupational illness.