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Vital witness evidence

We were instructed by the family of a deceased instrument engineer who had been exposed to asbestos at the BP oil refinery in Kent. In 2016, he was diagnosed with mesothelioma, an asbestos-related cancer, which is both aggressive and terminal. Sadly, he died in 2018 after suffering an increasingly debilitating illness involving invasive treatment. Throughout his illness, he was cared for by his family and medical team.

The Coroner had opened an enquiry into the cause of His death by the time we were instructed. Fortunately, his widow was able to put us in contact with a former friend and colleague of her husband’s. The two men had completed their apprenticeships, qualified and worked at the same refinery and so we were able to pass this evidence on to the Coroner.

The witness was able to describe the dusty conditions in which they both worked inside various boiler houses, where the boilers and pipework were all covered with asbestos lagging for insulation. Although the Deceased had not removed the asbestos lagging himself, he was usually working in close proximity to the laggers who were doing the removal work in enclosed areas with no ventilation.

As no respiratory protection was offered at the time, he was unable to avoid inhaling the fine asbestos dust and fibres which would eventually lead to his terminal illness.

This vital witness evidence was shared with the Coroner who returned a verdict of death by industrial disease.

The Defendant Company was in the process of liquidation, and so the liquidators and insurers were promptly notified of the claim. A medical report was obtained which confirmed the findings of the inquest, and a Grant of Probate was obtained in-house for the Estate to be administered.

No response on liability (legal fault) was forthcoming from the refinery’s insurers and so court proceedings were issued. A Defence was filed which failed to provide strong evidence to challenge the allegations of asbestos exposure.

Due to the Court delays during the COVID pandemic, the first procedural hearing could not be listed until the latter half of 2020, and so we and the Defendant’s legal representatives were able to conduct “without prejudice” discussions over the intervening months which resulted in the Defendant agreeing for judgement to be entered against them on the issue of liability.

Following joint medical evidence regarding the Deceased’s life expectancy, Part 36 settlement offers were exchanged, which led to a six figure settlement being agreed before the final assessment was due to be made by the Court.