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Written on 26th March 2020

Boyes Turner’s asbestos disease specialists have negotiated a settlement of just over £59,600 for the bereaved but non-dependent family of a former builder and carpenter whose asbestos-related pleural effusion and pleural thickening contributed to the respiratory failure which caused his death.

Exposure to asbestos

Our client had been exposed to asbestos during a single job but whilst employed by two companies, the first, Kerridge Construction Limited, from 1956 to 1958, and the second, Fisherbullen Limited (formerly Fisher & Sons (Fakenham) Limited), from 1958 to 1961. As the first company was dissolved with no traceable employers’ liability insurers, we could only pursue the claim against the second company.

Our client’s work had involved replacing cracked and broken asbestos roofs, using a hammer to break up the old “Big Six” corrugated, asbestos sheets and cutting the new ones with hand saws and skill saws.

He replaced old asbestos ceiling tiles and used a powered circular saw to cut asbestos sheets for fire doors and roof soffits in the joinery shop, often working alongside others who were cutting asbestos sheets on the circular saw.

Despite the small extraction unit at the bottom of the circular saw, asbestos dust was blown out of the top and sides of the saw, often directly into his face. On completion of the jobs, he swept and shovelled asbestos dust and debris into piles. 

Our client’s medical condition was complex and was regularly reviewed by medical experts for both parties. Our expert initially concluded that he had diffuse pleural thickening with 40% respiratory disability, (of which 20% was caused by the diffuse pleural thickening) and that the pleural thickening would gradually lead to increased breathlessness.

Over time the respiratory disability increased to 90% and, although the experts agreed that he would not have needed resident nursing home care but for the asbestos disease, disagreement as to the extent to which his disability was caused by asbestos disease rather than his other medical problems made the claim very difficult to quantify.

His condition deteriorated, and he suffered repeated pleural effusions, needing oxygen therapy at home and then non-invasive ventilatory support.  A possible diagnosis of mesothelioma was raised, but later dismissed when no evidence was found on post mortem to support the diagnosis.

Involvement of the coroner

After our client’s death the pathologist recorded the cause of death as haemorrhagic infarction of the lung, diffuse pulmonary fibrosis, pleural plaques and asbestosis, along with diabetes mellitus and ischaemic heart disease. 

The pathologist did not believe that pleural thickening had contributed towards our client’s death but our expert disagreed on the basis that the pleural thickening of the right lung would have contributed to the risk of developing haemorrhagic infarction and infection of the lung, and contributed to the respiratory failure that resulted in death.

His view was that our client had significant right-sided heart failure as a consequence of the asbestos-related, diffuse pleural thickening which was found at post mortem and that in the absence of exposure to asbestos, our client would not have developed his chronic lung problems which shortened his life by six and a half years. 

We obtained a report from a second medical expert who also confirmed that the reference to asbestosis on the post mortem report was a mistake as there was no evidence of asbestosis on our client’s x-rays.

The families claim

Senior associate - solicitor, Laura Magson, attended the inquest to ensure that the Coroner was aware of both parties’ experts’ disagreement with the pathologist’s conclusions, so that the correct cause of death would be recorded on the death certificate and the bereaved family’s right to claim compensation for our client’s injury and their loss would be protected.

Court proceedings had been issued during the client’s lifetime but the defendant disputed liability, leaving the case to be determined by the trial judge’s findings based on opposing engineering evidence from both parties.

During settlement negotiations in the lead up to trial, this sad but complex case finally concluded with an out of court settlement of £59,600.

If you or a family member has been diagnosed with an asbestos-related disease, we may be able to help.  Contact us on 0800 884 0718 or email for a free initial discussion.