Painter and Decorator Exposed Working in Government Buildings | Fieldfisher
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Case Study

Painter and Decorator Exposed Working in Government Buildings

Dushal Mehta, Senior Associate at Fieldfisher Solicitors was instructed to bring a claim by Mr Robert Adams following his diagnosis with mesothelioma, an asbestos related cancer.

Mr Robert Adams was born on the 26 June 1959 and was aged 55 at the time of his diagnosis. He had spent most of his working life as a painter and decorator in London. He started his career working as an apprentice painter and decorator for a company called Sykes & Sons Ltd. Sykes & Sons Ltd was and still is to this day a large building and construction company in the heart of London.

Mr Adams had worked for the company for a period of approximately 10 years, from 1975 to 1985. During this time, he had spent most of his time working in Whitehall. He worked in most of the buildings in Whitehall and had three paint workshops spread out over London to enable him to carry out his work. For over 5 years, he spent all of his time working in government buildings and was not required to work anywhere else. He worked in No 10 Downing Street, the Foreign Office, the Cabinet Office and the Treasury to name a few.

It was during this time that he recalled being exposed to asbestos. After he left the company he was not exposed to asbestos. He continued working as a painter and decorator but on a self-employed basis. He later worked in Selfridges and was working at this store prior to his diagnosis.

Mr Adams was married but separated from his wife, Julie. They had two children, Ben and Lee. Ben had been suffering with learning difficulties from a young age and had been for a number of years living in local authority provided care. On weekends he would stay with Julie. Mr Adams had played a key role in the upbringing of his children and in particular Ben. He often attended Julie's home to help restrain or care for Ben when he was particularly upset or having a difficult time. He was always available and contactable.

Mr Adams had no intention to stop working as he still had a number of working years ahead of him. He also wanted to financially support and provide for Julie and his two children. Unfortunately, his illness had cut short his ability to work and provide for himself and for his family.

Dushal Mehta took on the case and very soon after meeting with and taking Mr Adams' instructions he notified the claim to Sykes & Sons and they in turn referred the matter to their insurers and solicitors. Sykes & Sons denied liability throughout. Mr Adams had alleged that he regularly had to brush down pipework which was lagged with asbestos. This was in the course of his work and his painting duties. He was required to paint pipework and ceilings and was not advised of the dangers of working with or coming into contact with asbestos. He was not given any training or provided with a mask by the company.

Mr Adams had worked in many buildings during his 10 year employment with Sykes. He could identify the buildings he had worked in but because of the varied nature of his work and the passage of time he was unable to recall or identify where specifically his asbestos exposure had occurred. He could not recall which buildings contained asbestos and where he was engaged to work on pipes which were lagged with asbestos. Mr Adams also cleaned up after others and he had to make sure that he left the area he was working in clean and free from dust which had been behind by other tradesmen. He often worked alongside plumbers, carpenters and other labourers. Mr Adams could recall seeing carpenters cutting up asbestolux sheeting.

Mr Adams' condition dramatically declined and he underwent extensive radiotherapy and chemotherapy treatment. He found it difficult to eat and drink. The tumour started to grow and extended out of his back and this caused him extreme pain and made it even more difficult for him to sleep or rest. He lost a significant amount of weight and was regularly hospitalised as he repeatedly suffered with chest infections and also pneumonia.

The Defendants maintained their denial of liability throughout. They served three witness statements from existing and previous employees of the company to discredit Mr Adam's statement. They alleged the he would not have been required to carry out the duties he had said he had carried out and in fact he would only have been engaged in 'finishing' jobs. They stated that he would not have come into contact with asbestos. The statements were prepared by the current Managing Director of the company, a surveyor for the company and one of Mr Adams' previous supervisors who was now retired.

Dushal issued court proceedings in December 2014 to put pressure on the Defendant. They maintained their denial of liability and wanted to cross examine Mr Adams on the evidence he had given. The court granted permission for them to do so and his evidence was taken at his home in March of this year. After the examination, the case was set down for a further hearing and at that hearing the Court set down a tight timescale for the case to proceed to a two day trial in June 2015 due to Mr Adams' extremely limited life expectancy and deteriorating health. The parties were given permission to rely on an engineer and the Defendant also wished to obtain its own medical evidence. They sought to even question the diagnosis of mesothelioma.

Dushal was able to secure a settlement of £150,000.00 for Mr Adams approximately 4 weeks before the trial. This ensured that Julie could support her son Ben in the future with his complex care needs. Unfortunately, the compensation was secured at a time when Mr Adams was unable to make use of it himself. He did however want to ensure that Julie and the children benefited from some financial security from the claim. Mr Adams sadly passed away two weeks after the claim settled.

At the end of the case Julie said the following;

“I would like to say that Dushal Mehta  and his colleagues of Field Fisher Waterhouse couldn’t have been more helpful, supportive and caring throughout the two years that they worked on my husband’s case, Dushal was always only a phone call/email away if we needed him.  If he needed to see my husband it was never too much trouble to, if he was feeling unwell, to come and visit him and always gave him good advice and support when needed.  Dushal always gave us hope that Sykes and Sons had a case to answer and fought our corner all the way and did his up most to ensure that we got the best outcome that was possible.”

Contact us

For further information about mesothelioma claims, please call Dushal Mehta on 03304606751 or email


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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