Royal Mail accepts responsibility for asbestos in lethal King Edward building | Fieldfisher
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Case Study

Royal Mail accepts responsibility for asbestos in lethal King Edward building

Peter Williams recently settled a claim on behalf of the family of a man exposed to asbestos while working for the General Post Office (now the Royal Mail) as a postman and later as a supervisor in a main depot the King Edward building near St Paul's Cathedral.

Alfred Whitehead was 81 when he was diagnosed with mesothelioma having previously been fit and active. He lived with his daughter and grandson in Loughton, Essex, helping friends and neighbours with gardening and generally living well.

Mr Whitehead was diagnosed after his GP sent him for an X-ray following trouble with his breathing and generally feeling unwell. As his health deteriorated, his daughter looked after him at home until such time he needed hospice care. Mr Whitehead contacted Fieldfisher.

During his working life, Mr Whitehead had several careers, including in the Merchant Marines but worked out he had been exposed to asbestos while working in one of the offices in the King Edward sorting office in east London during the late 1960s through to the 1980s. He and his colleagues worked in the same room next to what they called the 'hot room' that housed lagged pipework containing asbestos.

Mr Whitehead remembered storing his bike in the room and drying his wet clothes, meaning he was regularly in and out of the room, which was covered in dust. In around the mid-1970s, workmen were contracted to remove the asbestos, which they did with no warning to the people working there, offering no protective equipment. Mr Whitehead and his colleagues simply carried on working in the office while bags of asbestos were removed from the hot room, with only a piece of plastic sheeting meant to keep away the dust. 

What has become clear is that the whole building was riddled with asbestos and the GPO offered no warning to employees or sought to protect them. Very sadly, Mr Whitehead died in December 2021.

Peter pursued an asbestos disease claim on behalf of the family against the Royal Mail plc. The claim settled this year and included an amount to pay back the hospice for Alfred's care during his illness.

Peter said: "The basement of the King Edward building contained old and deteriorating asbestos pipework, its lethal nature unknown to the GPO workmen in the 1970s. I am pleased that the responsibility for that legacy has been recognised by the Royal Mail in this case."

Mr Whitehead's family said: We were originally drawn to Peter due to his excellent reputation, and his years of experience in his field. What sealed it for us though was his personal manner. At every step of the journey he was caring and understanding, making sure we would understand everything that would happen and more importantly that we understood every step. No question was too much. Peter delivered above and beyond. Both on a professional and personal level. We cannot recommend him highly enough.

For further information about mesothelioma claims, please call Peter Williams on 0330 460 6805 or email


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