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I was instructed by Suzanne*, widow of Arthur who sadly died from mesothelioma.  I was contacted by Suzanne only a few months before the three year limitation period expired.

A claimant has three years from the date that they know that they are suffering from an asbestos related disease to issue a claim in the court. Where someone has passed away, the time limit runs from the three year anniversary of their passing (as long as they do not have knowledge for more than three years prior to passing). Time was therefore of the essence in Suzanne’s case to gather together evidence to pursue a successful claim.

Salisbury Corporation

As I was only instructed following Arthur’s passing, there was no life time Statement. Arthur kept his working life to himself and Suzanne was not able to give any detail about the way in which Arthur was exposed to asbestos. She knew that he worked for Salisbury Corporation in the 1970s as a plasterer and thought that he may have pulled down ceilings which contained asbestos, but understandably was not able to say any more than that.

All my efforts therefore were initially concentrated on getting further detail about the work that Arthur did for Salisbury Corporation. Arthur had made a claim under the Pneumoconiosis Workers Compensation Act for a lump sum payment during his lifetime which had been successful. I applied for the records. Normally the DWP forward copies of Application Forms under the Pneumoconiosis Workers Compensation Act together with the decision documents (with the client’s permission). The same is true for Applications with Industrial Injuries Disablement Benefit. However, when applying for the records, the DWP told us that they had destroyed Arthur’s records as the Application had been made some years ago. 

Medical Records

There were often references in the medical records to a client’s asbestos exposure. The doctors tend to question clients about their work history and in particular any asbestos exposure when mesothelioma is suspected. The only known cause of mesothelioma is previous asbestos exposure. However, when receiving Arthur’s records, there was no mention at all about any possible asbestos exposure with Salisbury Corporation or any other possible defendant. 

Witness Appeal

I therefore put forward witness appeals in local newspapers to see if anyone remembered Arthur and the working conditions at Salisbury Corporation. Initially, there was no response. I had almost given up hope when two witnesses, Andrew* and Carl* came forward and were incredibly helpful. Both of them remembered Arthur well and in fact Andrew told me that although Arthur was a plasterer, he was initially taken on to look after the boiler-house in Bemerton Heath for Salisbury Corporation. He reported that the boiler was lagged with asbestos, as was all the associated pipework. Arthur spent a lot of time in the boiler house and he also lagged the pipes with powdered asbestos which came in sacks. Arthur also removed asbestos lagging if there was a leak. Andrew remembered that it was very dusty in the boiler house.

Both Carl and Andrew remembered that Arthur undertook renovations of houses in the Wain-a-Long Road amongst other locations. Old ceilings were being pulled down by Arthur and other plasterers and the witnesses thought that the ceilings were made of asbestos. Arthur and other colleagues replaced roofs and ceilings on the garages. Andrew and Carl recalled that these garages often had asbestos guttering and corrugated asbestos roofs. They removed the guttering and the roofs and replaced them with flat roofs. They used a material called Asbestolux which came in sheets measuring 8 ft x 4 ft. 

Court Proceedings

The information from the witnesses satisfied me that there were sufficient prospects of success pursuing Salisbury Corporation and proceedings needed to be issued to protect Suzanne’s position (the three time limit was now upon us).  However, there was an issue over the identity of the defendants. Salisbury City Council were succeeded by Salisbury District Council in 1973 who were then succeeded by Wiltshire Council in 2009. In 2009 there were further structural changes to local government. Salisbury District Council ceased to exist. I notified the claim to both Salisbury City Council and Wiltshire Council. Salisbury City Council only came into existence in 2009 (being the Parish Council). It seemed likely that Wiltshire Council took over all responsibility from Salisbury District Council however Salisbury District Council would not respond to the claim initially. Proceedings were therefore issued against both Wiltshire Council and Salisbury City Council.

I obtained a supportive medical report which confirmed that on the balance of probabilities, Arthur died from mesothelioma and that his condition was caused by his asbestos exposure during his time at Salisbury Corporation. I sent the papers to a barrister who supported the case and drafted the Particulars of Claim (a document which sets out allegations of negligence against the Council). The barrister agreed that Wiltshire Council had taken on the liabilities of Salisbury Corporation, but unless Wiltshire Council confirmed that this was the case, proceedings would need to be served against both Salisbury City Council and Wiltshire Council in order to protect Suzanne’s position. 

Settlement

Once all the information relating to quantum was gathered, I was able to draft a Schedule of Loss (a document which sets out the financial losses that both Arthur and Suzanne suffered and which Suzanne will continue to suffer) and put forward an offer to Wiltshire Council. The Insurers for Wiltshire Council accepted that they were in breach of their duty of care towards Arthur and made an interim payment of £50,000. Shortly after, the case settled at full value eight months after the initial instruction. 

Whilst no amount of money will compensate Suzanne for the loss that she has suffered, she is pleased that she now knows more about her husband’s working conditions when he was a plasterer and that the employer that her husband worked for for many years has rightfully compensated her in some way. Suzanne has thanked the witnesses for their help in bringing her case to a successful conclusion.