A husband’s foresight in seeing a solicitor and making a sworn statement before his death from asbestos-related cancer was decisive in securing a six-figure damages payout for the widow he left behind.
Between 1978 and 1992, her husband had worked as a plasterer and was engaged in stripping out ceilings during refurbishment works on about 50 bank branches. In 2010, when he was aged 65, he was diagnosed with mesothelioma, an incurable cancer of the lining of the lungs which is commonly associated with asbestos exposure.
The onset of the disease was swift and he died about seven months after diagnosis. He suffered acute pain and breathlessness in those final months, but had the good sense to contact a solicitor and make a statement in which he pointed the finger of blame at his employers during the relevant period.
In the High Court, the man’s former employers maintained that there was never any asbestos in the ceilings he stripped out. The Court upheld his widow’s claim, however. He was an experienced building worker, who would have been able to distinguish between fibre board ceilings and tiles containing asbestos, and the employers’ arguments were ‘incapable of belief’.
He had probably been exposed to asbestos on three or four occasions and that had made a material contribution to the onset of his cancer. His exposure breached statutory regulations, codes of practice and health and safety guidelines that were in force at the time.
His widow was awarded total damages of £176,779, including £75,000 for the pain and suffering he endured before his death.
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