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Written by Melloney Harbutt

Boyes Turner’s mesothelioma specialists have obtained a settlement for the bereaved family of a former housewife who was exposed to asbestos from her husband’s work clothes.

Exposed to asbestos doing the washing

Eileen contacted us after she was diagnosed with mesothelioma. She was not aware of any asbestos exposure during her own childhood or employment. Her only exposure to asbestos was from washing her husband’s clothing after they were married in the 1960s.

Her husband, Chris, was a carpenter and between 1966 and 1968 he had worked for Hemel Hempstead Commission for New Towns. His work involved many aspects of maintenance on council properties, including renewing asbestos soffits and guttering, fixing pipe casings in bathrooms and renewing asbestos and fireproofing underneath staircases. For all these tasks, he used asbestos sheeting, cut to size, with the old fittings being smashed up before collection.

He wore his own clothes to work; normally a pair of jeans, a t-shirt and a sweatshirt. This clothing became contaminated with asbestos dust and debris, which also gathered in the rolled-up bottoms of his jeans. At the end of the day he would return home in the same clothes that he had worked in. Eileen would have dinner prepared by the time he arrived home the family would sit and eat together before he changed out of his work clothes.

Eileen washed Chris’s sweatshirts, jumpers, t-shirts and socks twice a week and his jeans once a week. She washed them separately from the rest of the household laundry as they were always very dusty. Before washing them, she would shake them to remove as much of the impregnated dust as possible. She also checked Chris’s pockets before washing them and would unroll the bottom of his jeans before shaking them to remove the dust which had collected in the rolled-up fabric. She would then sweep up the dust which she had shaken off the clothes. As a result of this routine, mundane and necessary household task, Eileen was exposed to and breathed in asbestos dust, causing her premature death from mesothelioma decades later.

Settlement for secondary exposure to asbestos

Eileen passed away a few months after instructing us, and Chris then took over the claim on behalf of her estate as her personal representative.

We notified the defendant employer of the claim which was supported by medical evidence confirming that Eileen had mesothelioma caused by her ‘secondary’ exposure to asbestos. Once we had sufficient information to value the claim, we also made an offer to the defendant to settle. The defendant denied liability, so we instructed an expert engineer to provide a report to prove that Eileen’s exposure was sufficient to put her at risk of developing mesothelioma and advise on the defendant’s liability, applying the knowledge and standards of the day (the late 1960s). We then prepared to issue proceedings and made an updated offer to settle. The court papers were already on their way to court, in the hands of an outdoor clerk, when the defendant’s solicitors finally indicated an interest in negotiating a settlement.

We were pleased to be able to reach a good settlement which will bring this sad case to a conclusion for Chris without the need for court proceedings.

If you or a loved one have suffered from mesothelioma or other asbestos-related diseases, contact us by email at