4 February 2021 | Comment | Article by Angharad Jones

World Cancer Day 2021

February 4 marks World Cancer Day 2021, a global initiative to unite people, communities and entire countries to raise awareness and take action against cancer.

In the midst of a global pandemic, the importance of awareness and urging those suffering from symptoms to obtain medical advice is as crucial as ever.

Those exposed to asbestos during their working life, are at risk of developing cancer later on in life, including mesothelioma or lung cancer.

It is estimated that around 2,500 people in the UK are diagnosed with mesothelioma every year, a cancer which usually develops within the lining of the lung or the abdomen. It is thought that exposure to asbestos is responsible for up to 9000 out of 10,000 mesothelioma cases.

Exposure to asbestos, amongst other factors, can also increase a person’s risk of developing lung cancer. It is estimated that around 13% of lung cancer cases in the UK are caused by workplace exposure.

Typically, a period of 10-50 years can pass before the symptoms of lung cancer or mesothelioma start to develop.

When someone has been diagnosed with asbestos related lung cancer or mesothelioma, they can pursue a civil compensation claim provided they can establish that such exposure was negligent, or in breach of a statutory duty. In an employment context, there is a common misconception that employers did not know that exposure to asbestos was dangerous, and therefore they could not have been negligent. However, there were in fact regulations in place from the 1930s offering employees better protection against asbestos exposure (the Asbestos Industry Regulations 1931 and the Factories Act 1937). These regulations have become more stringent over the years and the knowledge surrounding the dangers of asbestos exposure better known. As a result, a person diagnosed with asbestos related lung cancer, or mesothelioma, can often pursue a successful claim against their former employer for failing to protect them against asbestos exposure, even where this exposure occurred many, many years ago.

Below we look at two recent successful claims for mesothelioma and lung cancer due to previous workplace exposure to asbestos.

 

H v AEI

Mr H was diagnosed with mesothelioma in October 2016 and sadly passed away in March 2017. Hugh James continued to pursue this claim in the name of Mr H’s wife, and on behalf of his estate.

Mr H worked for Associated Electrical Ind (Woolwich) Ltd in the 1960s; a domestic and commercial cable manufacturer. Mr H’s role was to clear and sweep work areas clean, encountering asbestos by doing so. Mr H was required to sweep and clear up old lagging material from asbestos roofs, cables and asbestos fireproofing from industrial ovens.

A supportive medical report was obtained which confirmed that that Mr H suffered with mesothelioma as a result of his previous exposure to asbestos. It was the expert's opinion that Mr H suffered a 60% respiratory disability for the last 7 months of his life. It was also confirmed that Mr H's life expectancy was reduced by 7 years.

Following the restoration of the Defendant to the Companies House register, court proceedings were issued and served. Liability remained in dispute and the parties progressed through court directions including the provision of engineering evidence to support the claim.

The matter was resolved in the gross sum of £170,000 in August 2020 within 7 weeks of the trial hearing.

 

C v Carillion Construction (contracts) & others

Mr C was diagnosed with lung cancer in July 2016, following historic asbestos exposure during his working life between the mid-1960s and mid-1980s. In October 2016, Mr C underwent a lobectomy to have the cancer removed.

Mr C had a complex occupational history having worked for various companies at numerous sites across the UK. The majority of Mr C’s working life was spent in Manchester and Southampton. He spent a considerable amount of his working life at Carrington Oil Refinery, the Dry Docks in Southampton, and at Fawley Power Station.

After obtaining a detailed witness statement from Mr C, a claim was initiated against 15 Defendants, who Mr C alleged exposed him to asbestos during his working life.

Mr C was a trained pipefitter welder and was exposed in numerous ways, such as replacing and renewing pipework lagged with asbestos on ships, refineries, and power stations. In doing so Mr C was required to remove old and dusty asbestos lagging.

To enable a successful claim to be bought, a substantial level of asbestos exposure needed to be evidenced to enable the Helsinki criteria to be satisfied.

Following discussions with the Defendants, steps were taken to issue court proceedings formally in the specialist asbestos division within the Royal Court of Justice in London.

The parties were required to provide all relevant documents that they held and deemed relevant to the claim, to include records regarding works undertaken at the time of Mr C’s employment.

Due to the nature of the disease, the claim was initiated in a way that each Defendant was responsible for their share of the claim, based on either the length of time they employed Mr C or the dose of asbestos they exposed him to. The parties relied on expert evidence from experienced engineers to support their claim and to assist with quantifying the asbestos exposure suffered.

The parties reached a favourable settlement in Mr C’s favour without the need for a formal court hearing providing Mr C with compensation for the harm caused by asbestos exposure throughout his working life. The claim settled for a total of £66,010.

 

If you, or anyone you know, is suffering from mesothelioma, lung cancer, or any other asbestos related condition, you can contact a member of the asbestos team at Hugh James on 0808 231 0963 to discuss a potential claim on a no obligation basis. All cases are pursued on a ‘no win, no fee’ basis.

 

Disclaimer: The information on the Hugh James website is for general information only and reflects the position at the date of publication. It does not constitute legal advice and should not be treated as such. If you would like to ensure the commentary reflects current legislation, case law or best practice, please contact the blog author.

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