• In a recent asbestos mesothelioma claim we were unusually faced with three complex claims in one. Despite this, our asbestos disease team successfully obtained compensation from all three opponents on a no win no fee basis.

    Bill, a former carpenter & joiner from Romney Marsh, Kent, had contracted the asbestos disease mesothelioma . Tragically he die after suffering from mesothelioma for a few months. He left no surviving dependents, only adult children including Patricia & Gail. Although valuing the mesothelioma claim was quite straightforward, proving any liability for Bill’s asbestos exposure very challenging.

    Patricia and Gail contacted us about making a compensation claim for Bill’s mesothelioma; only weeks before the third anniversary of Bill’s death from mesothelioma, so right at end of the limitation period for the mesothelioma compensation claim. The only evidence obtained from Bill was a brief comment on a benefits application; “in the 1960s fitted out Minster Hospital boiler room…with asbestos. Also frequent contact with asbestos throughout working life” and he identified the name of his employer (W Ltd), a small Kent-based building company.

    A lot of initial investigative work had to be done for this mesothelioma claim and done quite quickly, because of limitation and because of the very limited evidence and instructions from Bill about his asbestos exposure.

    Extensive research/ investigations were carried out with witnesses and online, but also physical searches of archive records. Investigations of Bill’s “employers” on the Isle of Sheppey  hospital job, W J Cox & Sons Ltd, confirmed they had gone into liquidation many years ago. Initially we could not trace any insurers, but archive searches obtained evidence that their insurer may have been Commercial Union (now Aviva). However, we only had evidence that they were the insurers for one year (1962) and we were uncertain of the date the claimant would have worked there.

    We obtained further evidence to confirm this was 1962. However, there still remained an evidential gap; the lack of any direct witness evidence of his asbestos exposure. We also looked at the potential liability for asbestos exposure of the Department of Health as the hospital occupier. This was far from straightforward, as generally occupiers are not liable for asbestos exposure from active building works.

    We argued that the extent of control they would have exercised made them liable for foreseeable asbestos exposure and subsequent mesothelioma. Further investigations suggested Bill may also have been exposed to asbestos when working for a builder/shopfitter, Mr Nash, in the late 1970s. This was from converting an old cinema in Sheerness, Kent.

    Enquiries of planning authorities revealed an asbestos survey from 2007, confirming the presence of asbestos in the ceiling/lining paper of the building.

    Witnesses indicated Bill would have cut into that ceiling and was given no asbestos protection.

    A claim for mesothelioma compensation was therefore also pursued against Mr Nash. All three defendants denied the claims for asbestos exposure and mesothelioma compensation.

    WJ Cox & Sons Ltd had to be restored to the Companies’ register before proceedings for mesothelioma compensation could be commenced. The claims proceeded in the High Court specialist asbestos/mesothelioma list. A trial week was fixed for 3rd November that year.

    Specialist engineering/occupational hygienist expert evidence had to be obtained, as all three defendants still strongly disputed the claim. They argued that any exposure to asbestos was below the level where it could reasonably have been foreseen that he might suffer mesothelioma/ other harm. Our own expert was less supportive than we had hoped of the claim against the first two defendants, because of the lack of direct witness evidence about the claimant’s asbestos exposure at the hospital. However, he supported the claim for negligent asbestos exposure by Mr Nash. In July, just before we were due to exchange expert evidence, the first two defendants jointly made an offer of £30,000.

    We successfully negotiated this up to £45,000 plus costs. We ensured that settlement left published the chance to continue the balance of the mesothelioma claim against Mr Nash. At a conference with our barrister and expert one month before trial, the expert now expressed doubts about whether Mr Nash had negligently exposed Bill to asbestos. Before the conference Mr Nash had offered that if we dropped the mesothelioma claim he would pay his own costs. Given our expert’s doubts, it would have been risky to take this mesothelioma claim to trial. However, two and half weeks before trial we negotiated settlement of the balance of the mesothelioma claim.

    As Mr Nash was uninsured, we recognised a settlement could only be agreed for a total figure including costs. We agreed that Mr Nash pay a fixed sum of £65,000 for costs and compensation for the mesothelioma claim.

    From this sum Bill’s children received £5,000 compensation for mesothelioma on top of £45,000 already received from the first two defendants. The total award of compensation for Bill’s mesothelioma compensation claim came to £50,000; over 70% of this asbestos claim’s potential full value – a very satisfactory result in such a difficult mesothelioma claim.

    Asbestos compensation claims are not always easy to win. If you have a more difficult mesothelioma claim like this, it is good to know that you have solicitors on your side with the expertise to get you a result.

    This content is correct at time of publication

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