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Family Receives Compensation After Asbestos-Contaminated Laundry Kills Wife Of Former Power Station Worker In Kent

Ann Smith of Rochester, Kent, died of Mesothelioma after suffering years of secondary exposure to asbestos fibres from her husband’s work clothes.

The family of Rochester resident Ann Smith has received compensation after it was found she had died, aged 80, from Mesothelioma contracted as a result of suffering years of exposure to asbestos fibres from her late husband’s clothing. Ann’s husband, Steve Smith, worked at Kingsnorth Power Station in Kent from 1974 till the 1990s as a permit engineer for the Central Electricity Generating Board (CEGB).

While working for CEGB, Steve spent much of his time servicing, repairing, and maintaining asbestos-lagged equipment, during which he was exposed to deadly asbestos dust. Steve frequently responded to incidents in the turbine and boiler houses, which were rife with asbestos materials; alongside this, he continually dealt with blowouts on pipes which were lagged with asbestos. Steve’s work meant he was being regularly exposed to asbestos dust which in turn collected on his clothing.

It was found that some 4,000 tonnes of asbestos materials were present at the Kingsnorth Power Station site following its demolition in 2013.

Steve typically wore the same trousers to work each week, accumulating the asbestos fibres, which in turn led to his wife’s exposure to the fibres when she washed his clothing. Ann would usually carry in her arms Steve’s dirty clothing from upstairs, where it had been left, down to the kitchen to the manual washing machine exposing her to asbestos fibres over time. Ann shook items of individual clothing whilst sorting them into piles to be washed, again unknowingly being exposed to the asbestos fibres. Steve moved about their Medway home in his contaminated work clothes after arriving home from work, with no idea he was exposing his wife Ann to asbestos dust.

Ann was diagnosed with Mesothelioma in 2021 and was assisted by the Wisdom Hospice until her passing in September 2022. The Hospice has received a donation as part of the compensation settlement, to reflect the care they provided to Ann throughout her final days.

Ann instructed asbestos disease specialists Hodge Jones & Allen, who were able to expertly build a case against Steve’s former employers, despite Steve himself not being able to give evidence, as he passed away many years ago. The family were supported by the London Asbestos Support Awareness Group, which regularly works with the firm. Although Ann died before her case was concluded, her Solicitor, Lorna Webster, was able to secure an admission from the relevant insurers before her passing. It meant a lot to Ann to know that justice had been obtained for her, even though she knew she was too ill to see the end of the claim.

On the passing of his mother, the couple’s son, Tony Smith, said:

“My family have been devastated by the passing of my late Mum, and the pain and suffering she endured. What was thought to be a simple chest infection at first, was quickly uncovered to be the most horrific of diseases, Mesothelioma. I don’t believe I’d ever heard that word until late 2021, and to see it associated with my Mum brings me to tears even now. I feel it is important that her death is not in vain. Secondary Mesothelioma is something that impacts many hard-working families and as we learned, can suddenly come to light and change everything. We need to raise awareness, to ensure those who develop Mesothelioma know to seek legal advice on their rights to compensation. My Dad would have been horrified to know that he was unknowingly bringing this awful dust into his home. His employers simply should not have allowed this to happen, and the admission and compensation payment proves this should not have occurred. Nobody should have to suffer what we went through, and nobody deserves to have their life cut short because of something that could have been prevented, had employers taken the time to put health before profits.”

Lorna Webster, Partner, and asbestos disease specialist at Hodge Jones & Allen representing the family, said:

“Mesothelioma is a terrible disease; it can affect not only those who worked with asbestos fibres but also their loved ones. While Ann’s passing is a sad reminder of the risks of being exposed to asbestos fibres, we welcome the compensation her family has received, as many women are unfairly denied being able to pursue compensation due to inadequacies in our law on secondary exposure. We must raise awareness of how this disease impacts families, to ensure that more cases like Ann’s aren’t simply confined to the history books. We must seek justice for all those who develop Mesothelioma because of secondary exposure; rather than just the few who fit within the restraints of the legal requirements. We have set up a petition and would encourage people to sign it to seek change. Those who develop Mesothelioma are innocent victims, and they should all be given the right to compensation. Whilst Ann was able to do so, some women cannot. Change must happen to avoid this injustice”.

For more details on the petition to seek legal fairness for those affected by Mesothelioma from secondary exposure, please click here

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