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Written by Laura Magson

Laura Magson acted for the family of Thomas who sadly passed away due to mesothelioma, asbestos related cancer, in 2017. It was clear that Thomas had worked with asbestos for much of his working life including the following companies:

  • Coopers Mechanical Joints Limited/Coopers Payne Limited.
  • Manor Park Construction Company Limited.
  • Rush & Tompkins Limited.
  • Holland Hannen & Cupitts (Southern) Limited.
  • Kyle Stewart (Contractors) Limited.
  • J Longley & Co Limited.
  • Trollope & Coles Limited.
  • BPC Shuttering Contractors.
  • H Fairweather & Co Limited.
  • Ashby & Horner Limited.

Activities Thomas undertook during his career included making gaskets where he worked alongside others who were cutting asbestos to size. He swept up dusty debris at the end of the day. He also cut asbestos sheets to size for fascia boards and soffits using hand tools.

The difficulty with some of the above companies are that they are dissolved and there were no employers’ liability insurers for the period that Thomas worked for the companies. Some of the companies had insurance or are still live and have sufficient assets, but they argued that the time that Thomas spent working for the companies (on some occasions under three months) was so small that it could not have made a material contribution to the contraction of mesothelioma).

Inquest and Medical Evidence

Laura Magson attended the Inquest with the family and the conclusion was, rightly, “industrial disease”. Laura promptly instructed a respiratory physician to prepare a medical report to confirm the mesothelioma, to comment on Thomas’ life expectancy had he not contracted mesothelioma (which is important when valuing the claim on behalf of a dependent partner). The expert concluded that the asbestos exposure at all of the above companies would have been enough to cause the development of mesothelioma which of course contradicted the arguments put forward by some of the defendants.

In mesothelioma cases, we only have to prove negligent exposure against one employer and that that exposure contributed to the mesothelioma in order to secure 100% of compensation. Whilst our medical expert was of the opinion that any and all of the employments caused the condition, the defendants are entitled to obtain their own medical evidence and engineering evidence which could contradict this. Laura spoke to the various family members who provided care and who were financially dependent on Thomas and produced an advised the family to put forward an offer of settlement to the defendants prior to the issue of proceedings at Court. The defendants did not respond to the offer or come forward with any counter proposals so Laura prepared to issue the claim in the Court. The difficulty was that Laura and the barrister on the case believed that sufficient prospects of success were against one of the above companies only (as well as Coopers which are part of a scheme of arrangement under the Turner & Newell companies). Proceedings would therefore have to be issued against this one defendant only, which ordinarily would not pose a problem due to the “100% compensation rule” mentioned above.

However, in this particular case, the family would only receive 90% of the damages. This is because the company that exposed Thomas to substantial quantities of asbestos dust for the longest period is dissolved. Whilst there are insurers who would meet the claim for compensation, as the insurers are also in liquidation, the Financial Services Compensation Scheme steps in to pay only 90% of the compensation. The family would therefore suffer a shortfall in the amount of damages received if proceedings were issued against this one defendant only and of course in the event that we were successful in the claim.

It was very important therefore tactically to try to get the best outcome for the family. With the imminent threat of Court proceedings, five of the defendants came together to offer £156,000 gross which the family were happy to accept. The family were happy to accept because there was no 10% deduction. Laura was also able to recover a small amount for the hospice that provided care to Thomas during his final months. Whilst no amount of money will bring Thomas back and compensate the family for the loss of their father and grandfather, the family are content that more than one company has in effect admitted that they were at fault and negligently exposed Thomas to toxic dust when he was a young man. Laura was also able to secure an amount for the hospice that cared for Thomas at times during his final months.

For further information about mesothelioma cases, any of the above named companies or the Turner & Newell Scheme, please contact us for more information.