Mr Steer was diagnosed with pleural plaques in 2005. At the time, pleural plaques was not a compensatable injury and so Mr Steer was unable to obtain compensation. In 2009, he was diagnosed with lung cancer and after a relatively short but painful illness he died later that same year.
He had been cared for in his local hospice, Michael Sobell, for the last few months of his life but otherwise his daughter Sharon and other family members assisted with his care.
Mr Steer had been the full time carer for his youngest daughter Stacey, who has learning and physical difficulties. Although she was over the age of 18 she still required support. Due to the care that she needed and her vulnerability, Sharon had to move into her father’s home with her own family to help look after them both.
During his working life Mr Steer had, for a period of over 2 years, worked as a lagger for Rex Covering Company Limited (also known as Rex Insulation).
He worked for the company after he left school in the late 1950s. During this time, he was exposed to substantial quantities of asbestos without having been provided with a protective mask. He was working with asbestos all day and could not recall any other time that he was exposed during his working life.
As Rex Covering was a dissolved company, we had to locate the employers’ liability insurers during the time that Mr Steer worked for the company to pursue a claim.
This was a difficult task as all of our usual searches failed to identify the insurers. However, Fieldfisher had previously (over 20 years ago) obtained details of their insurers. We had in our archives, a fax confirmation sheet from insurance brokers confirming the identity of the insurers for a period of 10 months during which time Mr Steer was working for the company.
We notified the insurers however, for over a year, they disputed the evidence we provided and refused to accept that they were the insurers on risk despite previously having paid out in a case we brought years ago. They relied on the fact that we did not have the policy number which was the only evidence they would accept.
As a result, Dushal had to restore the dissolved company to the Companies Register to reinstate the company so that court proceedings could be brought against them. We were satisfied that the insurers had been identified with the information we had.
Only after the company had been restored to the register did the insurers finally accept that they were the relevant insurers during the time we alleged. The rest of his employment with Rex was uninsured.
Thereafter medical and engineering evidence was obtained which clearly showed that the exposure Mr Steer had with the company had made a material contribution to the development of his lung cancer (not withstanding the fact that he had been a smoker during his life). The Defendants then tried to rely on a number of unique features of the case to distinguish and question the validity of the expert evidence obtained.
They argued that epidemiological evidence was necessary which looked at mathematical statistics as to the relative risk of lung cancer and argued that this had decreased over the time that had passed between the exposure and the development of the lung cancer. They suggested that as Mr Steer smoked after his exposure had occured, it was the smoking, not the asbestos, that had caused the cancer.
Sharon claimed damages for her father having the illness and also made a separate claim for her sister, Stacey, as a dependent. Dushal obtained expert nursing evidence on the care that her father provided to his daughter Stacey and also the care he received during the course of his illness. Stacey was also assessed by an expert to see if she had capacity to manager her affairs.
Dushal was able to recover substantial damages for the estate and also for Stacey. Her money is now held in court for her benefit.
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