Mr R developed a cough that would not go away around Christmas time 2013. He saw his GP in January and was referred for an x-ray. The results showed a shadow so Mr R was sent for further investigation, which involved a scan and having fluid drained. A pleural biopsy indicated that Mr R was suffering from mesothelioma. He died in January 2014.
Many years’ exposure to asbestos
Following a short career in the Air Force, Mr R had worked in industry for most of his life: from 1956 to 1999, when he retired – and when the use of asbestos was banned in UK.
During the period between 1956 and 1960, Mr R worked for an electrical company that supplied, installed and repaired TVs, including aerial erecting. The firm also had a factory where switch gear was built. For the first six months of his employment there, Mr R worked on making up components needed by the installation team. This involved handling switch gear, which contained asbestos. He then moved onto TV installation and aerial erection, but also continued to work for one or two days a week in the store where the switch gear was built. Part of his work included drilling asbestos board to mount the switch gear on and this produced a lot of dust that covered the benches and floors where people worked. Mr R was not given any personal protective equipment and was not warned of the dangers of exposure to asbestos. He had to buy his own overalls, which he would dust off at the end of the day and washed at home.
Mr R then moved to work at a foundry firm where he welded aluminium beer barrels. During the welding he would wear asbestos gloves. The work caused the gloves to fray and they gave off asbestos dust, as did the barrels when they went into the furnace. Again Mr R was not given any advice about the dangers of asbestos exposure, and whilst he wore a visor when welding, he was not given any further protective equipment, such as a breathing mask. The firm provided and washed overalls.
Mr R then moved onto a company that produced machinery for making shoes (Cox & Wright – the company pursued in this case) until around 1973, where, once again he was exposed to asbestos, as it was fitted to the inside of the machines he was making. About once a month he would work on the floor where asbestos boards were cut to size using a band saw. This created a lot of asbestos dust that Mr R had to brush off the machines and floor and clear up with a shovel. Mr R wore asbestos gloves when he was welding and drilled asbestos boards. He suffered exposure in the same way as previously and, once again, was not provided any information about the dangers of exposure to asbestos. ‘Paper cup’ type masks were available, but they were uncomfortable to wear and did not stop the dust getting into his mouth. He wore a welding visor and had to provide and wash his own overalls.
From then until about 1999 Mr R worked at several companies as a welder, where he was, once again, exposed to asbestos and its dust and fibres and was not warned of the dangers. He then retired.
By 2013, Mr R found he was getting out of breath on exertion and couldn’t do the things he used to do, such as gardening, decorating, washing the car and housework. When he found out he had mesothelioma, he contacted Graysons who took up his case.
Graysons pursues company for breach of duty
Mr R died in 2014 and Graysons pursued the case on behalf of his widow, claiming breach of duty against Cox & Wright. The claim was made against this one employer because in mesothelioma cases such as this, where there are multiple employers involved, it is acceptable to pursue one relevant employer, or their insurers, if they can be found (from the ruling made in Fairchild v Glenhaven  3 WLR 89 House of Lords).
Amongst other issues, Graysons claimed that the company knew, or should have known that:
- The inhalation of dust or fibre including asbestos might be dangerous.
- Mr R could or should have been protected against inhalation of dust or fibre including asbestos.
- Not to protect him against, or prevent him from inhalation of dust and fibre, including asbestos, gave rise to a foreseeable risk of causing asbestos-induced illness.
And that the company failed to:
- Advise Mr R of the dangers associated with the risk of exposure to asbestos.
- Provide him with any breathing apparatus or instruct him on how to use it.
- Provide adequate ventilation or extraction equipment or take any adequate measures to reduce the risk by, for example, dampening dry asbestos.
The following are some of the studies and regulations relied upon:
- The 1930 Mereweather & Price Report on the effects of asbestos dust on the lungs and dust suppression in the asbestos industry.
- The Workmen’s Compensation (Silicosis and Asbestos) Act 1930.
- The Asbestos Industry Regulations 1931.
- The Ministry of Labour Guidance booklet entitled “Toxic Substances in Factory Atmospheres”, March 1960.
- The Asbestos Regulations 1969.
- The 1970 Department of Employment Health & Safety at Work booklet number 44 entitled “Asbestos: Health Precautions in Industry”.
- The 1970 HM Factory Inspectorate Technical Data Note 13 (TDN 13) entitled “Standards For Asbestos Dust Concentration For Use With The Asbestos Regulations 1969”.
Cox & Wright admitted liability and Graysons negotiated a settlement of £150,000 for Mr R’s widow, who had been dependent upon him.
How can Graysons help you?
Mesothelioma cases are difficult to pursue, often because the illness can develop decades after first inhaling the asbestos fibres, and the companies where the exposure happened might have gone out of business. When this is the case, we will locate a relevant employer or their insurer and pursue them. To find out more about claiming compensation for asbestos related diseases, please visit our web pages, or contact us to arrange a free of charge meeting in which we can discuss your case.