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Case Study

Former Citizen's Advice Manager exposed to asbestos in London Regional Office

In our series of case studies focussing on women who contracted mesothelioma at work in non-industrial settings, we remember Diana Whitworth who died from the terrible disease in 2015. A case pursued by Peter Williams on behalf of Diana's husband, Guy Dehn, settled recently.

Diana was diagnosed with mesothelioma in 2014 after persistent pain and shortness of breath meant she underwent a biopsy at the London Chest Hospital. She was then referred to an oncologist at Bart's Hospital who confirmed the diagnosis.

Diana had experienced a stitch-like pain as early as 2011 when she was diagnosed with pneumonia and then pleurisy at Homerton Hospital. Medical staff asked her if she had been exposed to asbestos but, at the time, Diana was unaware that she had been, particularly since she grew up on a farm and spent a lot of time outdoors.

After her diagnosis she was encouraged by DWP to see a lawyer and Peter Williams helped her with her benefit claim and encouraged her to ask colleagues from her 35 years in public service if they knew of any asbestos exposure. It was only then that Diana discovered that asbestos had indeed been present in the London office she attended over 300 times while working as a senior manager for the National Association of Citizen Advice Bureau (NACAB).

Diana had no idea of the danger she was in and had never received a letter sent in 1984 by the Greater London office to her colleagues informing them that asbestos had been discovered in the building and that they should alert their GP to have the information on their medical record.

Her colleagues described the building as 'shabby' and 'dilapidated' in their witness statements, with warren-like corridors and little fresh air or natural light. One colleague particularly remembers feeling very concerned to see people in protective clothing and masks removing the asbestos after Diana had moved to another office. Asbestos was present in broken lagging on pipework around the building and dust particles would have been in the air in the offices.

Peter was able to collate this and other evidence and put a case to the defendant's insurers, which admitted liability and agreed to settlement.

Diana's husband Guy said he was concerned that Diana had not been given the asbestos warning in 1984 as this would have affected her diagnosis and treatment in 2011 and could have led to a very different outcome.

Following settlement, Guy said: “Even though the facts were clear, the law is kinder to victims of mesothelioma than other diseases, and the case was done on a no win- no fee basis, it was a long, hard slog. It simply wouldn’t have been possible without Peter Williams and the legal team he put together and my gratitude is heartfelt”.

Peter instructed Michael Rawlinson QC of Kings Chambers.

Contact us

For further information about mesothelioma claims, please call Peter Williams on 020 7861 4825 or email peter.williams@fieldfisher.com.

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All enquiries are completely free of charge and we will investigate all funding options for you including no win, no fee.

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