Dushal was instructed to bring a claim by Mr W who had been diagnosed with mesothelioma. Unfortunately, at the time that Mr W contacted Dushal he was extremely unwell and found it difficult to recall how he was exposed to asbestos. He had worked for a number of companies predominantly in the building industry but also latterly in the lift industry. As Mr W was unable to recall where he was exposed to asbestos Dushal completed the government application forms for Mr W and he was able to obtain a lump sum payment from the government (for his diagnosis) and a weekly benefit as he believed that his condition had been caused by his previous work (even though he could not pinpoint where he was exposed and how).
Mr W then sadly died of his condition. Mr W’s family then contacted Dushal sometime after the death to advise that they had some further information about Mr W’s previous employment and where he may have come into contact with asbestos. They had spoken to some of Mr W’s previous friends and work colleagues who had attended the funeral. They recalled Mr W working in the lift industry and particularly for a company called Express Lifts in the 1980’s and 1990’s. During his time with this company he was employed as a lorry driver. He was one of only two lorry drivers that the company employed. Unfortunately, the other driver could not be traced but Mr W’s colleagues who worked for Express Lifts as engineers were able to recall him working for the company. They were also able to provide statements to confirm that Mr W would have to attend various sites and collect and clear away old redundant lifts and component parts and bring them back to the company yard or take them to the scrap yard.
The witnesses confirmed that whilst they worked for the company as engineers they were aware that the component parts of the old lifts comprised of asbestos material. They were old and in poor condition and in the course of Mr W clearing away and collecting the materials from the various sites he would have come into contact with asbestos. Mr W would have been required to lift and carry the asbestos materials and even the asbestos dust and fibres which were not inhaled would still settle on open surfaces and on the bed of the lorry. Mr W would not have been given a mask to wear and the witnesses were able to confirm that they themselves did not receive any training about the dangers of asbestos and therefore it was unlikely that Mr W would have been given such advice.
Dushal brought a claim against the company that took over from Express Lifts namely, Otis. Dushal had previously successfully pursued Otis for other mesothelioma sufferers. Proceedings were issued in the High Court and Dushal managed to obtain supportive medical evidence. This was despite the fact that there were a number of difficulties in that Mr W had in his medical records advised his doctor that he thought he contracted the condition from working in demolition and in the building trade and furthermore the fact that the exposure occurred only 15-20 years before Mr W started suffering with the illness. The latency period (i.e. the period between the exposure and the onset of the illness) is generally considered to be between 30-50 years.
There are however conflicting views on this whereby some medical experts will accept that exposure which occurred 15 years prior to the onset of the disease can be considered to be causative of the condition. In Mr W’s case Dushal was able to obtain a supportive medical report to say that the exposure with the lift company was likely to have caused Mr W’s illness.
After proceedings were issued and prior to the initial hearing, Dushal was able to secure an admission of liability from Otis and the case has recently settled for the benefit of Mr W’s bereaved wife.
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