24 November 2021 | Comment | Article by Lauren Bull
Mr J was diagnosed with mesothelioma and shortly after instructed Lauren Bull of Hugh James solicitors to investigate a claim. unfortunately, he passed away very quickly and was unable to sign his witness statement. He was also unable to confirm any actual asbestos exposure.
Hugh James knew that he worked at Lysaght steel works in the 1950s in the offices, but that he regularly had to take orders to the factory floor. Lauren had previously settled a claim against them for another client. Lauren approached her other client, Mr H, who had also developed mesothelioma as a result of exposure at Lysaghts steel works, to see if he could assist with Mr J’s claim. Mr H had stripped asbestos lagging during the same period that Mr J worked there. Mr H did not know Mr J but was able to provide a witness statement to confirm that if Mr J had visited the factory floor, that he would have most likely been exposed to asbestos.
The defendant disputed the claim all the way up until 2 weeks before trial. They argued that because Mr J’s exposure was before 1965, it was not foreseeable that he would have gone on to develop mesothelioma as the dangers of low-level asbestos exposure were not known to employers until this date.
Expert engineering evidence was obtained by both parties, who agreed that asbestos lagging was likely to have been present at the factory during the material time. It was agreed that the Factories Act applied to the defendant, and that following McDonald, the act applied to Mr J as an employee working at the factory. Hugh James argued that the defendant had failed to prove that it took all practicable measures to protect employees from the dust. The defendant provided no evidence to suggest that it considered the risks posed to Mr J or indeed any other employees to include Mr H, or that it took any measures at all to reduce or eliminate the risk. That would represent a clear breach of the duties imposed by the Factories Act. Taking these measures would have afforded protection to all workers in the factory.
Lauren Bull, Solicitor, said:
This was a challenging, low level mesothelioma case. Mr H’s evidence was crucial in securing a settlement for Mr J’s family. Ultimately, the defendant was undertaking a dangerous process of stripping lagging which was clearly in breach of the rules at the time. The defendant didn't control access in and out of the area for Mr J whilst a dangerous job was going on and therefore it was foreseeable that he would suffer an injury. If the Defendant had complied with its statutory duty and controlled the stripping of lagging, Mr J would have never been injured.
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