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Boyes Turner were instructed by the widow of a gentleman who had died as a result of lung cancer in March 2012 at the age of 53.

Exposure

The gentleman, “Mr A”, worked for Consett Iron Company as an apprentice fitter and turner at its steel works plant in County Durham. During his employment he was exposed to asbestos and a compensation claim was brought by his widow on the basis that the lung cancer had been caused by his occupational asbestos exposure with Consett Iron Company. A claim was brought against Tata Steel UK Limited.

Unfortunately, we were only instructed after Mr A’s death and so was therefore no lifetime statement but witnesses were traced and statements were taken to help support the claim.

The evidence was that the factory had been built in the late 19th century and processed raw materials to produce steel which was then shipped out to manufacturers. The factory was vast, spreading over several miles and Mr A’s job entailed working in various parts of the factory.

He started in the training school before moving on to the engine sheds, blast furnace and power stations, overhead cranes, plate mill and steel plant, and finally to the fitting shop.

The factory was run down and in a state of disrepair and there were miles of pipes running inside and outside the factory.

Blue, grey and white asbestos was present on site and the majority of lagging was made of grey asbestos, although blue asbestos lagging was also present, especially near the pipe valves. 

The pipes required frequent repair and this was performed by the fitters, including apprentice fitters, such as Mr A. To facilitate these repairs, they removed the lagging using a hand tool such as a knife or a saw and this process released large clouds of asbestos dust.

As the lagging was old and flaking, asbestos dust was also released when fitters crawled amongst the pipe work to effect repairs.

The lagging was left to lie where it fell and therefore dust was further released when it was walked upon or otherwise disturbed.

After repairs were completed, apprentice fitters, such as Mr A, were then tasked with sweeping up the loose asbestos and this process gave off large clouds of asbestos dust.

Mr A was also tasked with removing the asbestos lagging, which generated the release of asbestos dust.

The coke ovens, melting furnaces and boilers also contained asbestos products which were liable to give off asbestos dust.

The claim

Asbestos dust and fibres, were prevalent throughout the factory. This dust settled on the clothes and hair of the workers, even those not directly working with asbestos.

Despite this, Consett Iron Company took no meaningful precautions against asbestos exposure. 

Despite this, Tata Steel’s representatives were unable to admit nor deny liability and matters therefore progressed and Court proceedings were issued.

Medical evidence for Mr A’s widow supported that Mr A had bilateral calcified pleural plaques, evidence of significant asbestos exposure.  Medical evidence was obtained from an independent medical expert who confirmed that Mr A’s asbestos exposure more than doubled his risk of lung cancer. 

Engineering evidence obtained on behalf of Mr A’s widow also supported that the asbestos exposure levels, to which Mr A was exposed during his employment, were well above the relevant thresholds. 

However, there was a disagreement between the engineering experts, Tata Steel’s representatives obtaining their own expert engineering evidence and therefore matters looked likely to proceed to trial in July 2017.

There was an issue here with regards to quantum and an employment consultant was instructed in this case to assist in valuing the claim.

Settlement

During April 2017, settlement terms were agreed, thereby avoiding the need for trial.

The claim, therefore, concluded and Mrs A is relieved that the matter will not progress to trial and that a successful conclusion has been reached.

We are delighted to have assisted in this claim which had some complicated and difficult issues. We are pleased to have secured such an excellent outcome for Mrs A.