Posted by Rachel James, Partner
Witness evidence key in settling hospital maintenance man’s mesothelioma claim
Rachel James, a specialist asbestos disease solicitor in our Industrial Diseases Team, has recently concluded a case for the family of Michael Thornton, who sadly passed away from peritoneal mesothelioma in March 2017.
Michael instructed Royds Withy King in late January 2017, immediately after his diagnosis. He had been suffering symptoms of weakness and fatigue for over a year, and for 4 months leading up to his diagnosis, his condition had been rapidly deteriorating. Prior to his diagnosis, Michael had undergone all kinds of tests, but doctors could not find the source of his illness. By the time he was diagnosed, Michael was extremely poorly.
Between 1969 –1978, Michael was maintenance manager at three hospitals, Southmoor Hospital, Burntwood Hospital and Wardee Aldam Hospital, where he was responsible for the maintenance team working in the hospitals and for the supervision of electricians, plumbers, joiners and painters. Over time, the number of hospitals Michael was responsible for increased to 7. He supervised all of the work being undertaken across the sites and was called in to fix urgent problems and supervise maintenance work.
All of the hospitals had coal powered boilers within boiler houses. Southmoor Hospital also had a steam laundry with heavily lagged pipes and fittings. In the early 1970’s, Michael supervised the complete re-plumbing of the boilers, one of which had sprung a leak. To access the boiler, the lagging had to be stripped off the boilers by hand, exposing Michael to vast amounts of asbestos dust and fibres.
Initially, the Department of Health, who was responsible for the hospitals, did not admit liability despite the overwhelming evidence provided by Michael and his family. Michael was still in contact with several of his team, who came forward and provided witness statements which corroborated Michael’s evidence. One of the witnesses was also able to provide details of a previous case that had been brought by a colleague of Michael’s against Southmoor hospital, following her diagnosis of mesothelioma.
Despite all of the additional evidence showing that Michael had been negligently exposed to vast amounts of asbestos dust and fibres, the Secretary of State for Health still refused to make an admission of liability and an interim payment in Michael’s case. By then, Michael had become extremely unwell and had been admitted to a hospice.
Rachel issued court proceedings in the asbestos division in the High Court within 1 ½ months of being instructed however, sadly Michael died shortly after. Following an inquest into Michael’s death, an admission of liability was made by the Secretary of State for Health and an interim payment of £50,000 was made to his estate.
Michael had provided a great deal of services to his wife and family. He was a very talented and skilled man, who built his own home and serviced his own car and caravan. He could turn his hand to any job. Rachel wanted to ensure that this loss was compensated. In addition, Michael had received a great deal of care from his children and granddaughter who lived in Edinburgh, Norwich and Cheshire, so detailed statements to show the very complicated care and services claim, also were prepared. Terms of settlement were agreed on behalf of Michael’s family in early December 2017 for them to receive further compensation.
Rachel said “I am very happy to have helped Michael’s family obtain justice. He and his colleagues could have easily been protected from the dangers of asbestos, by an employer who should have had more knowledge of the link between asbestos exposure and illness than most other employers.”
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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