Posted by Jennifer Seavor, Partner
Compensation recovered for family of former Plessey Semiconductors employee following his death from mesothelioma
In May 2018 Neil Watson was on holiday and noticed he was unusually breathless. Neil saw a doctor who believed that he was suffering form an exacerbation of his existing COPD and told him not to worry.
On his return home, Neil’s symptoms persisted so he attended his GP who referred him for a chest x-ray. The scan revealed a collapsed lung and fluid in the pleural cavity, which was drained. Subsequently, a biopsy was undertaken which tragically revealed that Neil had developed mesothelioma.
Following his diagnosis, Neil contacted our specialist asbestos diseases solicitor, Jennifer Seavor. Jennifer was able to attend Neil at home and talk through is recollections of his working life and consider how he may have been exposed to asbestos. However, Neil had never worked with asbestos and did not know how he had come in to contact with the dust.
Neil Watson started working for The Plessey Company Limited in 1967/68 as an electronics engineer at their premises in Havant. Neil worked in the office and laboratory and was required to undertake testing work on various components made by the company in the factory. In 1969/70 Neil transferred to Plessey’s Cheney Manor premises in Swindon, to assist with the design of a new microchip. Neil mainly worked in the drawings and design office.
This type of work is not normally associated with exposure to asbestos but as mesothelioma can be caused by even low levels of exposure it is not unusual for those who develop the disease not to know how they were exposed.
Jennifer had acted for others exposed to asbestos at the main Plessey premises which were on the same site as Plessey Semiconductors. Neil told Jennifer about general maintenance work being carried out in the offices but was unaware of having had exposure to asbestos. Neil also used the site canteen at lunchtimes, where staff from all over the factory would mix together and therefore there was the possibility of exposure from others who had been using asbestos and wearing their dirty overalls whilst they queued and sat to eat, spreading dust to others.
Jennifer needed more evidence to prove that Neil would have been in the vicinity of disturbance of asbestos containing materials or in close contact to others who had asbestos dust on their work clothes. Investigations commenced and Jennifer was able to track down and speak to numerous people who had worked at the company at the same time as Neil. From people’s recollections it was possible to piece together evidence which showed that there were a number of ways in which Neil may have been exposed to asbestos during his time at Plessey. Evidence from one witness was however crucial which showed asbestos ceiling tiles being taken down in Neil’s office in the 1970s, releasing dust and fibres in to the atmosphere. Sadly however, whilst investigations were ongoing Neil’s condition deteriorated and he died.
Neil’s wife Liz decided to continue with the claim to prove when Neil had contracted his illness which let to his untimely death. The claim was directed to Plessey but the company has ceased trading and their former insurer’s claims handlers dealt with the matter. Liability was not admitted so after also obtaining medical evidence to support the claim it was necessary to commence court proceedings. However, prior to the first hearing the company’s solicitors made an offer of settlement which Liz decided to accept.
Neil’s case is such a sad one. He lost many years of life through this awful illness following negligent exposure to asbestos. Neil stopped working in the 1980s after sadly suffering a brain haemorrhage, but once he was well again, Neil took up part time volunteering work in a local school until he completely retired in 2017. He was starting to enjoy his retirement and he and Liz were planning to make the most of their retirement when Neil became ill again.
Neil and Liz’s experience shows clearly that mesothelioma can be caused by small amounts of asbestos. It is no longer the case that those affected by this illness worked in industry with asbestos day in and day out. Neil was an electronics engineer and worked in an office. However he was still exposed from materials in buildings which were not removed with the necessary care and attention.
On conclusion of the case Liz said:
“I would highly recommend Jennifer Seavor of RWK. My husband become ill with mesothelioma in 2018 and sadly died in 2019. Jennifer called to see us at our home to gather any information she could regarding our claim against my husband’s ex employers. She was generous with her time and was always at the end of a phone. This case was a complicated one and Jennifer dealt with the various problems with speed and efficiency, explaining everything to me in great detail. I shall always remember her kindness and empathy after my husband had died and the way she guided me through that terrible time with such compassion resulting in a substantial settlement.”
If you have any questions for our specialist mesothelioma claims team, please contact us today.
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