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Written by Melloney Harbutt

Boyes Turner’s Mesothelioma and asbestos disease claims team were instructed by Mr J in 2017 to investigate a potential claim for compensation following his diagnosis of asbestosis.

Mr J was employed in the Merchant Navy between 1975 and 1982, initially as an apprentice marine engineer and later as a qualified marine engineer. He was employed by a well-known British shipping company.

Mr J had heavy exposure to asbestos dust and fibres during the course of his employment in the Merchant Navy. This exposure came about from work he did in the engine room, which contained pipes lagged with asbestos lagging. He also had to remove and replace asbestos blankets and rope several times a month. Mr J had to mix and apply asbestos lagging and remove and fit gaskets made of compressed asbestos fibres.

After undertaking any of the aforementioned tasks, Mr J had to clean up using an airline and dustpan and brush or broom. Asbestos dust and fibres were disturbed and his hair and clothing would be covered in the dust.

Mr J had retained his Merchant Navy discharge book and was able to give detailed evidence of his asbestos exposure to enable us to investigate the claim.

Mr J had moved to Australia in the 1980s and it was there that he was diagnosed with asbestosis.

His father had been diagnosed with mesothelioma in January 2017 and Mr J decided to arrange a check up for himself in February 2017, having experienced some breathlessness himself. Knowing his working history with asbestos, whilst in the Merchant Navy, was more prolonged than his father’s asbestos exposure, he arranged a check-up which resulted in his diagnosis of asbestosis

The claim was initiated against the relevant defendant and a lot of work was done to investigate the claim to ensure that negligence and/or breach of statutory duty could be proved.

The initial legal representative for the defendant moved slowly and raised various issues along the way.

We obtained Mr J’s medical records and instructed an independent medical expert, whose report was supportive for the claim.

The medical expert considered that Mr J suffered from a respiratory disability estimated to be 25%, apportioned 20% to asbestosis and 5% disability not asbestos related.

The medical expert assessed that the disease would progress slowly but that he was at risk of future malignancy and of developing diffuse pleural thickening. 

We set about valuing Mr J’s claim, which he wished to settle on a provisional damages basis to enable him to return for further compensation.

Court proceedings were necessary along the way to protect his position, given the expiry of the three year period following his date of knowledge.

Court proceedings must be issued within three years of the date on which a person knows or ought to have known that they are suffering from an asbestos related disease as a result of the potential defendant’s negligence.

Following issue and service of Court proceedings, negotiations ensued with the defendant’s solicitors.

Given the implications of Mr J’s Australian residency, it did take some time to agree settlement terms which were satisfactory to all concerned.

However in May 2020 those settlement terms were agreed on a provisional damages basis and the Court’s approval to the agreement was sought and obtained.

Mr J’s claim has settled successfully and Mr J will now receive the compensation he is entitled to for his current asbestos related disability and he has the peace of mind of knowing that his claim can be re-opened in the future in the event of a deterioration in his condition or the diagnosis of an asbestos related malignancy.

The case was difficult and drawn out but thankfully once court proceedings were issued and served the claim progressed more swiftly and the solicitors took a pragmatic view and enabled matters to progress to a successful conclusion.

We are delighted to have assisted Mr J with his claim and to enable him to move forwards into the future with his wife knowing that he has the peace of mind that he has been compensated for his current asbestos related diagnosis and that his claim can be re-opened in the future if necessary.