Brian Pinney v Cleanaway Limited
Peter Williams acted for Brian Pinney who was employed by Cleanaway Limited as a tip marshal at their landfill site in Medenbridge, Ockendon, Essex between 1984 and 1994. His duties included standing on the edge of the tip about two metres high whilst beckoning lorries laden with asbestos materials back towards him. The lorries then tipped asbestos material below his feet. The material included bagged asbestos waste and also asbestos sheet material. In addition, he drove a compactor lorry with a shovel in front of it pushing the dumped asbestos mixture in to the bottom of the tip. The wheels caught on the asbestos bags which ripped and created dust in the atmosphere around him. He was also required to clean dust which may have included asbestos from radiators of the compactors by using a compressed airline which created dust around him. He was provided with a paper mask but no further protection nor warning that inhaling asbestos dust was a potential risk to his health.
In February 2004, he developed a cold which settled on his chest and which he could not clear. He had x-rays and tests at Basildon Hospital and was diagnosed with mesothelioma caused by asbestos exposure.
Cleanaway denied they negligently exposed Mr Pinney to asbestos dust. They produced documentation to state that all proper procedures were followed and produced witness evidence to allege that Mr Pinney was given proper protection and warning. They alleged that he would have only been exposed to tiny amounts of asbestos dust if at all. Witness statements were taken from Mr Pinney’s colleagues who confirmed his recollection of the exposure. Specific disclosure of all documents in relation to asbestos being dumped at the site were ordered and twelve boxes of documents reviewed. The documents revealed that up to 400 lorry loads of asbestos waste were deposited at the site in each month between 1984 and 1988 – a huge amount. In a 1986 report concerning the site it was stated:
“The only substantial release of dust came from the road liner carrying asbestos cement and millboard. In this case the driver was standing beside the backdoors of the vehicle and was directly in the path of the dust cloud formed when the asbestos material slid out of the liner and crashed to the ground. The potential hazard is obvious and the driver wore no protective clothing.”
The Defendants continued to deny liability. A report from a consulting engineer was obtained and confirmed that if the claimant’s and his witness evidence were to be accepted then Cleanaway were negligent in exposing him to asbestos dust.
Trial was set for 18 July 2005. All matters remained in dispute. An offer of £150,000 was rejected by the claimant on advice. Finally, three days before the trial, the case was settled in the sum of £200,000 to include damages for Mr Pinney’s illness, his nursing care, future financial loss and losses for the fact that he could no longer care for his 31 year old disabled daughter.
The case was conducted on a “no win, no fee” agreement at no cost to Mr Pinney who received his damages in full. His case was completed within ten months.
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