The family of John Grosvenor Lester, a retired pipe fitter and plant operator who died in January 2019 aged 81. have received substantial compensation from the BP Oil Refinery following his premature death from asbestos-related malignant mesothelioma, despite resistance from his former employer.
Mr Lester, known to family and friends as Les, worked at the BP Oil Refinery on the Isle of Grain in Kent. During his early apprenticeship years, he had to remove a lot of asbestos lagging which surrounded the many steam pipes in the plant in order to undertake repairs. He was exposed to asbestos for almost 30 years, between 1956 and 1983.
Les approached social justice law firm, Hodge Jones & Allen (HJA), to fight his case, shortly after his diagnosis. He was not fit enough to undergo chemotherapy or radiotherapy to treat his mesothelioma, and sadly passed away shortly after he instructed his lawyers.
However, prior to his death, Les provided HJA with vital evidence, whereby he recalled seeing asbestos dust in the air whenever sunlight came through the plant windows. Les’ employers did not provide any protective equipment or training on the dangers of handling asbestos material.
An inquest was opened and his legal team were able to provide the witness statement and Les’ medical records and employment history were obtained, along with a medical report which confirmed his diagnosis and cause of death.
HJA were also able to apply for the Grant of Probate, which appointed his son Mark to take over the claim. Despite the disclosure of the medical evidence and schedule of financial losses, Les’ previous employers reserved their position on liability and proceedings were issued in the High Court. A defence was filed and an initial Court hearing was arranged.
HJA made a settlement offer in an effort to try and conclude the matter before the first Court hearing. Following a short period of negotiation, an increased offer was accepted a day before the hearing was due to take place. HJA has a specialist team that deals exclusively with asbestos and mesothelioma claims, ensuring they are handled with the utmost skill and care.
Les’ son, Mark, is keen to highlight the importance of the vital evidence his father was able to provide before to his passing: “While we are relieved that the legal battle is over, nothing can make up for the loss of our dad.”
“When he was diagnosed with this very specific and debilitating cancer, we knew that we had to do something. Thanks to dad’s unbelievable mental strength, at a time where he was at his weakest physically, we were able to engage HJA and get the vital testimony that demonstrated that his employer did not take the proper care or attention for his life.
“Companies have known for a long time about the dangers of asbestos, and yet this was allowed to go-on. There must be some form of accountability.
Isobel Lovett, a Partner and Asbestos and Mesothelioma specialist at HJA who represented Les and Mark, said: “This has been an incredibly difficult experience for Mark and his family. When I met Les, he was able to give me a powerful statement that really underlined the unacceptable working conditions which he had experienced for 27 years at the BP Oil Refinery. We fought hard to get justice for Les, and we hope it would have given him some comfort to know his family has now won this compensation thanks to him.
“There is support out there for people dealing with the ongoing consequences of asbestos exposure. We do everything in our power to ensure that the lives and suffering of people like Les do not get ignored or forgotten, especially if they are seeking justice against big corporations. In some cases, as in this one, the victims of asbestos exposure may have already passed, but that doesn’t mean their families, like Les’, have to struggle alone.”
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