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Written on 11th June 2024 by Laura Magson

Laura acted for Paul*, a labourer who was sadly diagnosed with mesothelioma in 2023. Like so many in the 1960’s Paul began working at a young age, gaining employment on a paper route when he was 15. Paul moved on from his paper route and began working as a labourer and machine operator for several employers in the Berkshire area in the early to late 1960s. Through word of mouth and some childhood friendships, Paul obtained employment with a construction company based in a large factory. He worked there between 1968/69 and 1971/72. It was during this period of employment that Paul first encountered asbestos, completely unaware of the dangers associated with the then popular and widespread building material. 

Asbestos exposure during employment

Like any eager to impress labourer, Paul was open to any job thrown at him. Loading and unloading lorries full of building materials was common. Sweeping out the dusty factory floor and the company’s delivery lorries was a staple to his day. Bulks of asbestos sheets ranging between 5 and 10 sheets thick were commonly delivered to the factory and in need of stacking and storing at the factory. The unassuming flat and grey/white sheets seemed completely harmless to all at the factory.

The company Paul worked for specialised in the construction of timber framing for new homes/bungalows. They would then attach asbestos sheets to the framing for insulation purposes. Bungalows designed for the wealthy and those looking to establish a suburban life in new real estate developments were hot property. Subsequently, the demand for asbestos was high to ensure that the structures being built were fireproof. At the factory, carpenters created work zones so that they could cut the grey/white sheets. Paul recounted the sound of electric saws ripping through the air and clouds of dust being created by the carpenters on site.

Wielding a trolley 10 to 12 feet in length, Paul would unload arriving lorries to the factory full of the asbestos sheets. After navigating his trolley through the factory floor Paul would unload and stack the sheets for the carpenters, meaning that he would regularly encounter clouds of grey thick dust. Once cut and treated by the carpenters Paul would then load the finished panels (comprising of timber and asbestos) onto lorries for site delivery.

Paul’s face was unprotected compared to the surrounding carpenters who were generally masked for their work. No warnings were ever passed onto Paul or his co-workers regarding the dangers of asbestos, with it being likely that many encountered the swirling clouds of dust without batting an eye. In the corner of the factory Paul and his co-workers would huddle together for morning tea and other breaks during the day. Any escape from the dust was futile. The open layout of the factory floor meant that swirling dust particles would spread far and wide, oftentimes exacerbated by Paul and other attempting to sweep the work area. Paul recounts his clothes being covered in dust by the end of a days work, leaving the labourer looking like a sugar coated almond when leaving the factory.

Upon leaving the factory in approximately 1972 Paul went on to work for other employers but had no interactions with asbestos. He retired in approximately 2018.

Symptoms of mesothelioma develop

Paul’s mesothelioma diagnosis seemingly came out of the blue. A man of good health (aside from two pre-existing and unrelated complications), Paul was able to maintain meaningful employment for upwards of 60 years. It was only in July 2023 did Paul begin to experience seemingly insignificant respiratory symptoms. Breathlessness, troubles sleeping and fatigue leading to the need to sleep during the day were new and unexplainable. It was only after being referred for a chest x-ray and upon speaking with a radiographer did Paul appreciate the seriousness of his symptoms. Upon attending the Royal Sussex Hospital in Brighton Paul underwent a large drain via his back. After this procedure Paul was admitted to the hospital for more than two weeks with his loving partner Maria* visiting everyday to be by his side. Treatment continued at Guy's Hospital and further inpatient stays ensued. Paul was discharged on 14 August 2023 after receiving his mesothelioma diagnosis and returned home. Treatment of Paul’s symptoms is ongoing and he has elected to remain at home with Maria.

Employers Liability Insurance

Laura visited Paul and Maria at home soon after she was contacted and the gathering of documentation to support Paul’s claim shortly followed. Ascertaining the prospects of a successful claim against the construction company required immediate action. Entities with similar names muddied the waters, and the team worked hard to quickly distinguish the correct entity. Upon lodging searches via the Employers’ Liability Tracing Office the correct entity was located and employer’s insurance was found to cover the period of time in which Paul was employed. Locating this insurance policy allowed Boyes Turner to quickly notify the insurer of Paul’s circumstances of employment and his diagnosis in early December 2023.

Boyes Turner first received correspondence from the insurer’s representatives in mid December 2023 and in fact Laura secured an admission of liability within three weeks of notifying the insurers of the claim, with an interim payment of £50,000 agreed. With the help of expert evidence from consultant physicians and a community palliative care nurse the team at Boyes Turner achieved settlement of Paul’s claim in late May 2024, just seven months after initial instruction.

Paul and Maria said:

‘Laura dealt with our case effectively and rapidly as the situation required. She was always a sympathetic and considerate listener and dealt with any questions clearly and promptly. We are grateful for her assistance in pursuing this case and would not hesitate to recommend Laura and her law company to anyone who finds themselves in similar circumstances’.

*names have been anonymised

For more information about how the mesothelioma and asbestos disease claims team can help you or your loved ones after a diagnosis of an asbestos related disease, please contact the team by email on asbestos@boyesturner.com or by telephone on 0118 952 7199.