November 30, 2020

Claim for mesothelioma victim exposed to asbestos as a school cleaner/caretaker settled within five months of instruction

During the course of her employment Margaret was frequently exposed to asbestos when sweeping out the boiler room and dusting down pipework around the school which was lagged with asbestos.

When the second school was built on the site, Margaret was also responsible for cleaning up after tradesmen. The building had suspended ceilings which were constructed of asbestos ceiling tiles. Once the school was operational, tiles would sometimes fall down and it was Margaret’s job to put them back up. The edges of the tiles were fibrous and dusty to touch when they were handled. In addition one of the routine tasks Margaret did was to sweep out the boiler room and in school holidays, dust down pipes throughout the school. These were lagged with asbestos and let to Margaret being exposed unknowingly to toxic dust.

Margaret sadly became ill with shortness of breath and a chesty cough in around September 2019 and subsequently developed pain in her chest. She attended her GP who referred her for a chest x-ray and CT scan. The scans showed a build-up of fluid on the lung, which was drained. She underwent a biopsy, which sadly confirmed the diagnosis of mesothelioma.

Prior to the onset of her symptoms and diagnosis, Margaret was very independent and had an active social life. She enjoyed day trips in the local area, gardening and spending time with her two sons and their families. She was understandably devastated by the diagnosis.

Making a compensation claim

Margaret instructed Jennifer Seavor in our specialist team in January 2020. Jennifer visited Margaret at her home to take a detailed witness statement about her working history and exposure to asbestos. A letter of claim was sent to Mrs James’ former employers and a medical report was obtained as a matter of urgency from a medical expert, who confirmed the diagnosis, linking it to Margaret’s exposure at the school.

Pressure was applied to the defendant’s insurers and solicitors to admit liability and make an interim payment of compensation. As we were in the midst of the Covid-19 lockdown it was difficult to deal. The insurers delayed in responding to emails and it was not possible to get thorough on the phone but Jennifer persisted.

Sadly Margaret’s health was worsening and she was admitted to her local hospice. Due to the way the law works, it was important Margaret’s case was concluded in her lifetime so she could recover her pension loss. Margaret was a widow and had no dependants so this element of the claim would have been unrecoverable if the claim was not concluded in Margaret’s lifetime.

An offer to settle was made in April 2020 and the Council’s insurers made a counter offer in early May 2020, which was accepted by Margaret. The claim settled within five months for in excess of £120,000 and damages were also recovered for the hospice. Sadly Margaret passed away only a few days later but she knew that the claim had settled and liability had been established against the Council for failing to protect her from exposure to asbestos.

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