Power Station Worker Claims 30 years from diagnosis
This case highlights some of the medical and legal complexities around asbestos related diseases and compensation.
This is a summary of the case of a Power Station fitter and lagger who was first diagnosed with an asbestos related condition more than 40 years ago and was still able to claim compensation.
Mr G worked at The Hams Hall Power Station in the West Midlands from a teenager for 30 years. Initially, he was an apprentice fitter and as such was given the more menial tasks to perform including mixing the asbestos powder into a paste. He had to remove asbestos lagging from turbine housings and pipe work, so he often had to work in clouds of asbestos dust.
He first noticed the ill effects from breathing in this amount of asbestos in the late 1970s and was advised to claim from the government. He was turned down. In fact, he was given a letter from the power station which encouraged him to stand behind barriers when asbestos as being stripped and was advised to stop smoking.
It wasn't until the mid 80s that he was supplied with a paper mask in an attempt to minimise further asbestos exposure.
However, the damage had been done at this point and his health started to deteriorate in the early 1990s. He went to the doctors who referred him for tests. A CT scan revealed that he had asbestosis and needed an oxygen tank in his home to help him to breathe. This meant that he and his disabled wife were effectively house bound and reliant on other family members to provide care and assistance.
This time when the family applied for government assistance, it was granted - they received a lump sum and benefits.
The doctor also advised that he seek further compensation for the asbestosis, but he was told by his union that he was time barred - ie more than 3 years had elapsed since this initial diagnosis and it may prove prohibitively expensive to investigate further.
He was worried about the legal costs he could incur, so decided not to pursue the claim.
Unfortunately in 2016, he became much worse, he lost weight and was very short of breath. His doctors suspected that he now had mesothelioma, but he was deemed too poorly for a biopsy to confirm this. He then contacted our solicitors to see if there was a chance of claiming. We took on the case, even though the initial diagnosis was some 30 years ago. Our lead solicitor Helen Childs determined that the crucial point was whether the owners of the power station would be more prejudiced in investigating the claim than they would have been if it had been bought within 3 years.
There was certainly no problem in establishing asbestos exposure as Mr G had kept the letters advising him to remain behind barriers to minimise exposure to the dust. Also the level exposure that can cause Mesothelioma is relatively low when compared to other diseases such as asbestosis.
It was not possible to confirm a mesothelioma diagnosis without a biopsy, so the claim proceeded on the basis of the long standing asbestosis diagnosis.
An offer was made to the defendants of £100,000, but sadly his condition worsened and he died in 2017.
Post Mortem at odds with diagnosis
There was a post mortem because an asbestos disease was considered to be a cause of death, however, the results stated that his death was not asbestos related. Our solicitors disagreed and requested that the tissue samples were kept. A second opinion was sought and this time there was confirmation of high levels of asbestos in his lungs, clear evidence of asbestosis, but not mesothelioma. The case then proceeded as an asbestosis claim.
The claimant made a reduced offer of £57,000. This reflected the disease type and the fact that there were periods of
exposure that were not pursued. This figure was recently agreed by the defendants, E-ON.
This was an unusual case in that compensation was sought and awarded some 30 years after the initial asbestosis diagnosis.
The case highlights the importance of seeking the advice of specialists solicitors and those who are not bound by strict protocols about cases they will pursue. Most firms will not look to push the boundaries of discretion under the 3 year Limitation Act.
Our lead solicitor Helen concluded:
“ We were quite sure that this was the situation here as Mr R’s employers had faced scores
if not hundreds of similar claims and exposure to asbestos was clearly documented in his own personnel file. We therefore
took this decision - with the backing of the insurers to accept the claim on a No-Win No-Fee agreement.
We are very pleased that the claim has settled bringing Mr R’s family some closure. ”