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We acted for Patrick in relation to this contraction of asbestos disease. He first became ill at the end of 2012 with a cough and chest discomfort on the left side. He suffered a pleural effusion and underwent a biopsy in August 2013. Fortunately, no malignant cells were seen in the biopsy, but they confirmed the presence of fibrosis. Patrick was unfortunately left with diffuse pleural thickening following the effusion and due to prior asbestos exposure.

Royal Mail

Patrick began working for the Royal Mail in 1964 as a technician. He began a job at the Banbury telephone exchange. This was a big telephone expansion at the time, which involved moving switchboards and the installation of line finder frames and switches. 200 pairs of cables were put in at a time and the outer layer of the cables were lined, followed by a layer of asbestos, then copper foil, then more asbestos and multi coloured silk wires. The silk enabled the technicians to colour code the wires. Patrick stripped back the outer covering of the wires with a hook which involved stripping the asbestos and foil back to get to the silk. He then colour coded the wires. He had two pots of molten wax and he dipped the ends of the cable into the wax to seal them so that the silk would not unravel. He worked the asbestos covering, pulling it back from the cables, causing asbestos fibres to be released into the atmosphere. After every job, he swept up and threw the asbestos and other debris away into the dustbin.

Asbestos was also used as fire seals in the telephone exchanges. Patrick and his colleagues used to play football with the asbestos bags and kick them about at one another. Sometimes the bags split and dust was released into the air. Hundreds of asbestos bags were used in the Banbury telephone exchange and Patrick worked in the telephone exchanges for approximately ten years into the 1970s. He had no protective equipment.

We obtained medical evidence to support Patrick’s claim. Royal Mail did not admit liability and Court proceedings were issued in October 2015.

Court Proceedings

Our medical evidence was that the pleural thickening was causing a 25% respiratory disability out of an overall 60% (the remaining disability being due to other conditions including heart disease). The defendants obtained their own medical evidence.

We pushed for “judgment” at the first interim hearing and the Master granted “judgment” on the issue of liability. This meant that effectively the defendants had conceded that they breached their duty of care towards Patrick and the only issues to be decided were whether the asbestos exposure caused the illness that Patrick was currently suffering from and to iron out any disagreement between our medical expert and the defendant’s expert.

Both medical experts agreed that Patrick had pleural thickening caused by his previous asbestos related exposure. It was important that a joint report from the experts was obtained to come to some broad agreement about the respiratory disability, loss of any life expectancy and his co-morbid conditions (heart failure and organ damage). The experts agreed that the overall respiratory disability was at 60% with 25% due to the pleural thickening. They also agreed that his life expectancy was only six years despite him being only 72 years old. The reduction in life expectancy was partly due to his other conditions.

Assessment of Damages

The case was set down for another interim hearing, but the defendants agreed our directions at the last minute.  The Judge set the case down for an assessment of damages in February 2017. This is a hearing where the Judge hears arguments from both sides in order to assess the amount of damages that the case is worth.

Patrick was pleased that the case finally settled two months before the assessment date for £60,000.