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Justice Achieved For Brothers Exposed To Asbestos

Alan Moutarde, now retired, contacted Hodge Jones & Allen seeking legal advice. He explained his situation and medical condition to Isobel Lovett, Head of our Asbestos Team. Isobel outlines his story…

Alan came to me for help and advice on claiming benefits and compensation for his illness. He had worked with his brothers, erecting partitions and suspended ceilings in large commercial buildings from the mid-1960s until the late 1970s.  The brothers cut and fixed Asbestolux board to fireproof beams and to create fire breaks and were exposed to asbestos dust from dilapidated asbestos lagging on pipes which they had to work around. They frequently worked in confined service ducts among asbestos debris.

The brothers had also cut asbestos ceiling tiles while erecting suspended ceilings which resulted in them being covered in asbestos dust as they worked. No-one was given respiratory protective equipment to prevent their inhaling the dust, even though during this period, it was well known that asbestos could cause mesothelioma, if inhaled, even in small quantities.

Sadly, Alan has had to deal with the consequences of his employers’ negligence, many decades later. His brother, Derrick died from mesothelioma in November 2016, so Alan already had  indirect experience of this terrible illness. Derrick and Alan were both exposed to asbestos dust when working together for Unilock Companies in the 1970s, though the companies have now ceased trading.

Alan’s claim was submitted to his employer’s insurers but, at the time, they made no offer to settle, which left him no option but to start court proceedings in the High Court. This prompted the Defendant to formally admit to having exposed Alan to asbestos dust, which was in breach of the duty of care they owed him. At the first court hearing, the Defendant was ordered to pay Alan a substantial interim payment of damages for his illness and its lasting effects.

During his time of poor health, Alan’s condition was treated initially with chemotherapy but this didn’t bring any improvement and he suffered terrible side effects. His oncologist was keen to try immunotherapy, which at the time was not available on the NHS. Private funding was the only option but at around £8,500 a cycle, Alan needed the Defendant’s insurers to fund this.

By October 2018, Isobel was negotiating settlement terms and the Defendant’s insurers to pay a six-figure sum in settlement of Alan’s claim and in addition, to fund future private medical treatment. However the exact wording of the agreement was disputed as the Defendant’s insurers tried initially to avoid a detailed process and then, to impose various restrictions on the provision of funding for Alan to begin immunotherapy. The full and final agreement was secured at the door of the court in January 2019, and Alan was then able to start treatment with Pembrolizumab.

Almost two years on, Alan’s condition is stable and he is still receiving the treatment which allows him to lead a reasonably full life. If his treatment needs change in the future, he is secure in the knowledge that this will also be funded by the Defendant’s insurers. The London Asbestos Support and Awareness Group co (LASAG) continues to support Alan and Carol.

On the settlement of his claim, Alan asked Isobel whether she would advise his sister-in-law, Barbara, whose husband Derrick (Alan’s brother,) had died some years previously but without claiming compensation as they had not known how to prove where his asbestos exposure had occurred. Barbara was being treated for cancer herself when Derrick was diagnosed, in 2016 and so, they endured treatment together and cared for one another until Derrick’s death in November 2013.

Explaining about the second case Isobel said

“As Barbara continued to battle cancer, she did not take further steps to pursue a claim. The time limit for doing so had passed in November 2016. However, having investigated her claim, I agreed to pursue the case for her, knowing that the Defendant’s insurers had accepted breach of duty of care in Alan’s case and hoping they and the Court would be sympathetic to her situation.

We had to issue court proceedings quickly, to stop the clock running by presenting the case to the Defendant who denied liability on the basis the claim was out of time. However, as we prepared for the first court hearing in May this year, we received a good offer of settlement of Barbara’s claim, which she accepted. So, Barbara has seen justice for Derrick and although nothing can make up for her loss, she now has financial security for the future.

It is always satisfying when we are able to achieve life-changing settlements for clients and families affected by mesothelioma but doubly gratifying to have succeeded in these cases”.

Isobel Lovett is a specialist industrial disease solicitor with over 20 years of representing employees and sub-contractors exposed to asbestos by negligent employers. She leads a team of specialist solicitors who are experienced at tracking down Defendants and their insurers, finding witnesses, obtaining financial support and benefits and bringing about justice for Claimants.

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