Posted by Jennifer Seavor, Senior Associate
New support group to help asbestos disease sufferers
Last month, Jennifer Seavor and Rachel James from our Industrial Diseases team attended the launch of the South West Asbestos Support and Awareness Group (SWASAG).
SWASAG is a new group dedicated to helping people affected by asbestos related illnesses and make a positive difference in their daily lives by:
- providing support, practical advice and information to victims and their families;
- holding regular, monthly support meetings in Plymouth and Truro with plans to expand in the future;
- raising awareness of asbestos related diseases;
- educating the general public about the dangers of asbestos.
The launch was held in Plymouth at the Future Inn and was extremely well attended, demonstrating the need for this kind of group in the South West. Jennifer said:
“there was a real gap in the South West region for this kind of group. HASAG has been operating for many years now and has grown from strength to strength, helping those affected by asbestos illnesses in the central south. LASAG was set up a few years ago to assist those in the South East; however until now the South West didn’t have anything like this”.
Who’s involved in SWASAG?
Mesothelioma UK specialist nurse Christine Jones has been instrumental in establishing the group. The trustees all have an emotional tie with asbestos disease because they have been affected themselves and it is wonderful that they have selflessly decided to give their own personal time to help set up and run the group.
For example the Chairman is Christine’s husband, Steve Jones. He is an experienced dock worker who has seen first hand the dangers of asbestos exposure. Also the Vice-Chairman is Julia Southwell, who sadly lost her husband Albert to mesothelioma in February 2017. She sees the setting up of the group as a tribute to his legacy. Julia is determined to do everything she can to give something back and help those who are also facing the same diagnosis as Albert did. The Treasurers are Helen Rowe and Julie Pleau. Helen and Julie’s father Mike was diagnosed with peritoneal mesothelioma in 2015. Mike met Christine Jones at a support group in Plymouth and decided to establish one in Truro in Cornwall with Christine’s help. Sadly, Mike passed away in January 2018 but Helen and Julie are determined to make a success of the new South West group in memory of their dad and to raise awareness.
Catching up with former clients – Jim’s story
At the launch, Jennifer had the pleasure of meeting her former clients – Brian and Sue Davis from Saltash. Jennifer acted for Brian, concluding his claim for his late father Jim in December 2015. Jim had worked at Devonport Dockyard as a boiler maker between 1955-1972 and was heavily exposed to asbestos. He developed pleural plaques in the 1980s and pursued a claim. Sadly, as the years went on Jim’s health deteriorated and he became extremely disabled by his breathlessness. He repeatedly sought the advice of his doctor and solicitor, complaining of his worsening symptoms but unfortunately, his complaints were not taken seriously. On his death, it became apparent that he had actually developed asbestosis, fibrosis in his lungs due to his heavy asbestos exposure. Brian wanted to try and obtain justice for his dad and sought advice from Jennifer about making a claim.
The claim was not straightforward as Brian did not know who had acted for Jim in his first claim for pleural plaques and Brian also wasn’t sure how he had settled his claim – whether on a provisional or full and final basis. Jennifer undertook significant investigations and was able to trace the first solicitor but when she got in touch it transpired that they had then destroyed their file. Jennifer undertook further investigations including with the local Court and Jim’s former GP and consultant regarding how Jim had settled his pleural plaques claim. Eventually, she was able to establish that Jim had indeed settled his claim on a provisional basis. However, at that stage a further issue came to light – in that the original terms of settlement included a long stop provision for any future claim meaning that Jim only had a further 15 years from the settlement of his pleural plaques claim to claim any further compensation. The long stop had expired. Jennifer did not let this put her off and wrote to the Ministry of Defence and put them on notice of her intention to seek an order from the Court to retrospectively extend the time period. Just prior to the Court hearing the Ministry of Defence agreed to what Jennifer was proposing and the claim was eventually settled in Brian’s favour for £90,000. Whilst the money could not bring Jim back or compensate him for the awful disability he suffered due to his asbestosis, Brian felt as though justice had been done for his dad.
Jim was a really important member of the community where he lived. He served in the RAF Bomber Command as a Lancaster Rear Gunner during the Second World War and survived 32 missions over enemy territory. In the 1980s he embarked on a project to build a memorial which still stands on Plymouth Hoe today –the RAF and Allied Air Forces monument. Indeed, Jim’s ashes lie beneath the memorial and there is a plaque dedicated to him.
Brian and Sue always said to Jennifer how impressed Jim would have been with the work she had done on the case because he too was a fighter who never gave up. Jennifer was absolutely thrilled to meet Brian and Sue at the launch of SWASAG. Sue said:
“It was so lovely to meet with Jennifer and we are so glad that she was able to see the RAF memorial and Jim’s plaque”.
Brian and Sue were extremely happy to hear that a support group had been set up in the South West and were keen to attend to support the launch. Sue said:
“We think the support group is a very good thing and we really think it will be a successful project. We did not have support such as that when Jim was ill but as far as the case was concerned we had Jennifer and she was the best!”
For those living in Devon and Cornwall who would be interested in attending the support group meetings, they are held regularly in Plymouth and in Truro. You can contact SWASAG by telephone on 02000 010010 or by email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
If you have any questions for our specialist mesothelioma team, please contact them today.
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