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Widow of plumber receives compensation following her husband’s exposure to asbestos and premature death

The widow of a former plumber from the Isle of Sheppey, who passed away from mesothelioma a mere 6 months following the onset of symptoms, has received compensation from the insurers of his former employer.

Our client, “Mr X” died prematurely after developing the asbestos-related condition mesothelioma (a cancer of the lining of the lung caused by inhaling asbestos fibres) – some 3 months following his diagnosis.

Between 1955 and the early 1960’s Mr X was employed by The Sheerness and District Economical Co-Operative Society Limited, initially as a labourer before completing his apprenticeship as a plumber. He worked on various domestic sites  handling, cutting, drilling and fitting asbestos cement rainwater goods and corrugated asbestos cement roofing sheets for garages as well as cutting holes in asbestos water tanks and wiping out the asbestos debris and dust with a cloth.

He also undertook maintenance work in offices, boiler rooms, the dairy and bake houses, stripping and removing old asbestos insulation and mixing and applying new asbestos lagging.

Despite this significant and prolonged exposure, which often saw him covered in substantial quantities of asbestos dust in the process, Mr X was not provided with any protective breathing equipment to prevent him from inhaling the dangerous fibres.

In September 2019, Mr X experienced respiratory symptoms including breathlessness and chest pain, and after suffering recurrent pleural effusions requiring aspiration, investigations confirmed a diagnosis of mesothelioma.

The medical expert instructed in the case, confirmed that Mr X’s mesothelioma had reduced his life expectancy by 3 years.

In August 2021, his widow pursued a compensation claim against The Co-operative Group Limited. The Defendant’s solicitors denied breach of duty and claimed that Mr X’s exposure had only been “low level, occasional, incidental and short-lived”.  The case was listed for a hearing but before the hearing took place, the Defendant made an offer to settle the claim. Negotiations continued for a short period resulting in an increased six-figure settlement offer by the Defendant, which was accepted.

Mr and Mrs X worked were represented by Isobel Lovett, Partner and Head of the Asbestos Team at Hodge Jones & Allen. Isobel commented on the case:

“The rapid decline in my client’s health due to mesothelioma was particularly shocking and traumatic for his family. Their suffering was prolonged by the Defendant’s failure to admit at an early stage in the case, their failure to take any steps to protect their employee at a time when it was already known that asbestos dust could kill. His family had no option but to start court proceedings and even then, the claim was denied. The settlement offers which followed quickly confirmed what I always thought – that this was an indefensible claim which should have been settled quickly. Whilst the end result was acceptable to my client, no amount of money can replace her husband. Sadly, this outcome was entirely avoidable”

Isobel Lovett leads the Hodge Jones & Allen Asbestos Team based in London and Liverpool. Isobel is a partner with a long career in representing clients who have developed mesothelioma and other asbestos diseases usually whilst during their employment. She has built a reputation for tackling complex cases and winning them.