Oliver Chapman, specialist industrial disease lawyer based at Thomson Snell & Passmore’s Tunbridge Wells and Dartford (Thames Gateway) office, has secured £75,000 for a widow whose apprentice joiner husband died as a result of mesothelioma.
We were initially instructed by a claimant who had developed mesothelioma as a result of his occupational exposure to asbestos. He was in his 70s.
The claimant’s instructions were that he had been exposed to asbestos in more than one employment. He had firstly been exposed to significant quantities of asbestos dust when working at London Paper Mills in Dartford between around 1954 and 1957. He was employed as a joiner’s mate.
In the course of that employment, he was regularly exposed to substantial quantities of asbestos dust which he inhaled. He was exposed in the following ways:
- He worked in close proximity to laggers who mixed up asbestos paste from dry asbestos powder which they tipped into drums and then mixed with water.
- When cutting doors which contained asbestos insulation. The asbestos within the doors was torn up by the blades of the power tool used by the claimant.
- When replacing a section of corrugated asbestos cement roof sheets. Old asbestos roof sheets crumbled if they were removed and this caused asbestos dust to fall directly into his face. New asbestos roof sheets were then cut to size using a hand saw, which generated further asbestos dust.
- When securing the new asbestos roof sheets to the staunching, the claimant used a power hand drill to drill through the asbestos roof sheets which caused more asbestos dust to fall into his face.
- He then had to sweep up the dust created by this work which generated further asbestos dust into the atmosphere.
- At the end of the working day, the claimant’s body and face were covered with asbestos dust and he shook the dust out of his overalls.
He was subsequently employed by his brother-in-law in the construction industry and he recalls one particular job in London where he was again exposed to substantial quantities of asbestos dust over the course of three months.
A claim was investigated against the claimant’s brother-in-law, but although the brother-in-law was sure there was insurance, no employer’s liability insurance policy could be traced. Understandably, the claimant did not wish to claim against his brother-in-law personally.
The claimant had no documentary evidence of his employment with London Paper Mills and the defendant initially denied liability. The employment was prior to 1961 (when records of National Insurance contributions began) and the claimant had not retained a contract of employment or apprenticeship deeds from the 1950s. However, we traced a former colleague who was able to provide a statement to the effect that the claimant worked at London Paper Mills and he also supported the claimant’s account of the regular and substantial asbestos exposure.
There were some difficulties in identifying the successor in title to London Paper Mills, as the mill had closed many years previously. A 1964 article was identified in the British Library taken from The Statistician entitled “The Structure of the Reed Paper Group.” It revealed that London Paper Mills was owned by Reed Paper and Board (UK) Limited which was a previous name of SCA Packaging Limited which subsequently changed its name to DS Smith Display Holding Limited. DS Smith Display Holding met the claim.
We obtained medical evidence regarding the claimant’s condition which confirmed that he suffered from several co-morbidities and thus his life expectancy, but for the mesothelioma, was only three years.
Unfortunately, the claimant died very shortly before the case settled for £75,000 plus payment of the claimant’s legal costs. The case was concluded on behalf of the claimant’s widow and estate.