Posted by Rachel James, Partner
Posthumous settlement for the family of Geoff who died from mesothelioma
In May 2017, Rachel James an Associate in our specialist Industrial Diseases Team in Oxford was instructed by Geoff, an 83 year old gentleman from Cambridge, who had recently been diagnosed with mesothelioma.
Geoff lived with his partner, Barbara. While Geoff and Barbara were not married, they had lived together as man and wife for 22 years. In August 2016, Geoff began to suffer with shortness of breath and pains in his chest and abdomen. He was diagnosed with mesothelioma in April 2017. Geoff worked for the William Sindall Group for most of his adult life. As a young man, he trained with Sindall’s as a bricklayer, but after National Service, re-joined the Sindall Group as a trainee foreman, working his way up to a contracts manager. In 1967, Geoff worked on the construction of the Lister Hospital. He supervised the work, often working in close proximity to carpenters cutting up asbestos insulation board with handsaws and bench saws and working in close proximity to laggers mixing and applying lagging.
Despite Geoff providing very detailed evidence about the work he carried out for the William Sindall Group, which later became Morgan Sindall Group Plc and Sindall Limited, the solicitors acting for them did not make an admission of liability in Geoff’s case, stating that his evidence was “vastly overstated”. Geoff was becoming increasingly unwell and whilst we were able to obtain substantial benefits payments for Geoff, it was not sufficient to give him the mental security of knowing that Barbara was provided for after he passed away. He especially wanted to buy a brand new car for Barbara before he passed away, to ensure that she would not have to manage vehicle maintenance and could get about without him. Geoff was also worried that Barbara would not manage financially, because she had always been reliant on his higher pension income.
Rachel researched whether there were any of the original building plans concerning the Lister hospital in the local Hertfordshire archives. She found a vast amount of documents concerning the building of the hospital, especially the building site manager’s journals which detailed all of the work that went on during the building of the hospital. These proved that asbestos was used throughout the construction of the hospital, that wet asbestos paste lagging was applied by Kitsons Insulation and that Geoff definitely worked on the site, because he was named in the journals.
Court proceedings were issued within 2 months of instruction as Geoff deteriorated very rapidly over a matter of days and passed away shortly after the issue of court proceedings. We were able to help Barbara to obtain a grant of probate to deal with Geoff’s affairs. Following an inquest and disclosure of the site manager’s journals for the construction of the Lister Hospital, the Sindall Group finally agreed settlement terms at the end of December 2017, within 7 months of instruction.
Rachel James said “I was very happy to be able to pursue the claim successfully for Barbara and to obtain justice for Geoff posthumously. Geoff continued to work for the Sindall Group until 1992 when he was retired. He was exposed to asbestos for much of his working life, and it was only in the last 10 years of his employment that his employers took any precautions to minimise the dangers of asbestos. The dangers of asbestos were well known during the time that Geoff worked on the construction of the Lister Hospital; however he was always led to believe that it was safe by his superiors. Tragically, Geoff passed away before his claim could be settled, however he knew Barbara would be afforded financial security.”
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