Posted by Rachel James, Partner
Damages secured for the family of a former British Rail Engine Fireman
Rachel James was instructed by Caroline, the daughter of Douglas following his death from mesothelioma. His family recalled that he had worked for British Rail as a fireman and also for Royal Mail in two of their sorting offices and as a postman.
Douglas sadly passed away very quickly following his diagnosis. His condition progressed so quickly, that he was not able to take legal advice and had not really discussed with his family about where he had come into contact with asbestos.
Douglas had mentioned to his wife many years before that the Royal Mail sorting office that he worked in had an asbestos roof that was being removed and replaced. His wife remembered him talking about the dust caused by the work and mentioned that he was required to carry on his usual work in room during the removal. His wife and daughter also remembered that Douglas had working for British Rail as a railway fireman when he first moved to the United Kingdom from India.
Although Caroline and her mother were not aware that the work of a railway fireman would have brought Douglas into contact with large amounts of asbestos, Rachel had pursued cases for railway firemen and railway workers on many occasions. Caroline was able to give evidence that her father had worked as an engine fireman on trains leaving from London’s Kings Cross, Euston and St Pancras stations. Caroline remembered that part of her father’s job involved helping with the maintenance of steam trains at Neasden depot and cleaning up. During the late 1950’s – mid 1960’s, steam engines and pipework contained a large amount of asbestos.
Douglas’s job as an engine fireman involved him shovelling coal into the firebox to ensure that the train kept moving. When not shovelling coal he would be assisting the engineer in the cab by keeping an eye on the controls. Within the cab there were many asbestos lagged pipes along with the exposed parts of the firebox. The firebox was lined with asbestos and the coal was shovelled at speed, which lead to damage of the firebox and exposure of the asbestos lining. At the end of each journey, Douglas had to clean out the inside of the firebox, which again disturbed and damaged the asbestos lining.
The Department of Transport, who now hold the liabilities for historic British Rail cases made an admission of liability in the case and agreed to pay Douglas’s estate an interim payment of £50,000. The claim put forward included damages for Margaret, Douglas’ wife’s dependency on his income and services, to help make sure that she is financially secure for the future. She was also compensated for the care that she provided to Douglas while he was unwell and awarded bereavement damages. At the outset, Rachel helped Margaret obtain a lump sum mesothelioma payment from the state, so that she had some money to help her while her claim was being pursued. Douglas’s’ family received over £145,000 in compensation.
Caroline said to Rachel “I was extremely impressed by the diligence and efficiency shown in dealing with my claim. You were knowledgeable, reassuring, thorough and made the whole process very easy for me. Without your help I would not have expected to have received any compensation or known who to pursue the claim with. I would certainly recommend Royds Withy King to any family in a similar situation.”
If you have been diagnosed with an asbestos related disease and require any further advice, please do not hesitate to contact us.
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