Lorna Webster, Partner in our specialist Asbestos team appeared on ITV News on 31st March 2021 alongside her client, Rae Wall, to discuss their campaign to change the laws surrounding second-hand exposure to asbestos.
Rae Wall of Rainham, Havering, lost her mother, Iris Craddock, to mesothelioma – a fatal form of cancer linked to asbestos exposure – in May 2020. Rae is now sending a stark warning that the law will not always protect women who suffer from secondary asbestos exposure from washing their husband’s work clothes.
Iris’ husband, David, worked for the majority of his career, from 1955 through to the early 1990s, in the lagging industry around East London, and was employed by several lagging companies. Iris would shake out his work clothes and wash them, exposing her to the loose asbestos fibres that remained on David’s clothes.
Mesothelioma takes decades to manifest itself following asbestos exposure. Iris began to suffer from shortness of breath in August 2019, but was unable to receive chemotherapy. She sadly passed away just eight months later.
The 1965 Rule
Rae and her family were shocked by the legal hurdles they faced when trying to pursue a compensation claim for Iris. These include the “1965 rule”, which means that if a woman was only washing her husband’s asbestos contaminated work clothes prior to 1965, her compensation case cannot proceed.
Even in cases where some exposure occurred after 1965, the law can be prohibitively difficult. The insurer of companies who allowed their workers to go home in dusty work clothing have to be identified, but this is very difficult in the majority of cases, as the employers often ceased trading some decades ago.
The campaign to change the law
We think that the law is unfair to those who develop mesothelioma as a result of secondary exposure to asbestos. We propose that the government sets up a scheme to provide a compensation payment to those who fall within the cracks of the system and aren’t currently eligible for assistance at present. The law fails this group of people – many of whom are elderly women – and this needs to be recognised and rectified as soon as possible.
Lorna told ITV News: “There’s approximately 2,500 people every year who die from mesothelioma in Great Britain. Most of those mesothelioma exposures will be due to people who were exposed in their own employment; a small percentage will be due to secondary exposure and it’s those people that we want to help.”
The link to the petition can be found here: https://www.change.org/p/government-organisations-create-a-compensation-scheme-for-secondary-asbestos-exposure-victims
For more information on the calls for reform, please see our full press release by clicking here and click here to view the full ITV news coverage.