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Laura Magson acted for the family of George who sadly passed away from Mesothelioma in December 2016. Laura was only contacted following George’s passing as the mesothelioma was not apparent.

He had become breathless for a few months in the autumn of 2016, the cause of which was a pleural effusion which required drainage. Whilst his doctors thought that he had a likely pleural malignancy, Mesothelioma was not discovered until he had sadly passed away in a nursing home and there was a Post Mortem. It was particularly heart-breaking because George’s wife had to go into a nursing home when George fell ill. George was the sole carer for his wife who suffered with Alzheimer’s.

Witness statements

As Laura was only instructed by the family after George passed away, there was no lifetime statement from George about the circumstances of his asbestos exposure. George’s son was able to tell Laura about part of his working history and that the likely asbestos exposure occurred when George was employed by Cornwall Council. The exact start date of George’s employment with Cornwall Council was unknown, but the Council certainly appeared on George’s employment history in the early 1960s and from 1979 until 1993. HMRC keep a record of employers from April 1961 onwards. The claim was of course notified to Cornwall County Council who were able to confirm George’s employment (although not the start date).

Laura was able to speak to a witness who provided much needed information about how George came into contact with asbestos. 

George was a laboratory technician. As part of his job, he worked in the steam plant where there were boilers, turbines and pipework, all of which was lagged with asbestos that had been put on previously. It was George’s job to do any repair work and there was one particular summer where decommissioning occurred and the vessels were taken out. George was required to shift the asbestos debris during this period. He bagged up the asbestos and removed it.

Diagnosis of Mesothelioma

Once Cornwall Council’s insurers had the supporting witness statements, they conceded liability, that is that they breached their duty of care towards George, but they would not agree that the breach of duty caused the Mesothelioma. Laura had, as is usual in Mesothelioma cases, obtained a supportive medical report from a respiratory physician that is accustomed to preparing medico-legal reports and sent it to the defendants, but Cornwall Council were not prepared to accept the diagnosis of Mesothelioma on the basis of the medical records alone. Laura therefore instructed a pathologist to examine the tissue samples and the pathologist produced a report which confirmed that on the balance of probabilities George was indeed suffering from Mesothelioma and that Mesothelioma was the cause of his passing.

Cornwall Council now accepted “medical causation” and Laura valued the claim. Valuing the claim was quite complex because Laura argued that George’s wife went into a nursing home earlier than she should have done on account of George’s premature death due to Mesothelioma. 

When George fell ill, he was unable to care for his wife which caused him great mental anguish during his final months and his wife went into a nursing home whilst he lived at the family home before he was transferred to the nursing home as well. Laura wanted to therefore recover the past costs of the nursing home for both George and his wife up until the point at which the medical evidence estimated that George would have been able to care for his wife. She also obtained a life expectancy report on the widow, but also on her “mental capacity”. Very sadly, George’s wife had severe dementia (Alzheimer’s disease). She was a co-executor of George’s Will, but was unable to bring the claim in her own right because she lacked the capacity to bring a claim, but also to manage her own financial affairs. Her son had Power of Attorney and was also co-executor of the Will. He therefore had the legal standing to bring the claim on behalf of his mother, she was the sole beneficiary of George’s Will. She also had a dependency claim in her own right as she was financially dependent on George for his income but also the care that he was providing her with and all of the other jobs that he did around the home and garden.

After various negotiations, the defendants offered just over £177,000 net in full and final settlement of the claim. Laura had already instructed a barrister to assess the level of compensation in George’s case because it was likely that Court approval would be needed on any proposed settlement due to George’s wife’s lack of capacity. Laura and the barrister agreed that a barrister’s written advice would be helpful for the Court in deciding whether or not to approve any such settlement. Laura and the barrister agreed that the offer was sufficient and the executor of the claim was happy with that advice and chose to accept the offer on behalf of his mother. Although the claim was resolved without the need to issue Court proceedings in the traditional sense, because the settlement needs Court approval, Laura needed to make an application to the Court so that a Judge can approve the settlement terms.

Although no amount of money can compensate for the loss of a husband and step father, the family are pleased that Cornwall Council acknowledged that they negligently exposed George to harmful dust and are incredibly grateful that the witness was happy to provide an account of the working conditions in the laboratory.