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Case Study

Substantial claim for widow of perfectionist whose work maintaining their home was almost irreplaceable

Gregory Smith joined the family business, Chas Smith & Sons (Shopfitters) Limited when he was almost 18. Before becoming an employee of the company, from the age of 16, he would often work during school holidays for the company in order to earn some money.

When working during the holidays, and later until he was about 21, he did general labouring work whilst learning the trade on site.  During this period, he was exposed to asbestos when helping other employees to remove old asbestos ceiling tiles during the course of refitting clients' premises. During the course of this work, he would be involved in ripping out old ceiling tiles where the main priority was to get the job done as quickly as possible. He would be surrounded by clouds of dust from this. He also had to clear up all the broken tiles and put them into a skip at the end of the day. 

He was never advised that there might be any risk to his health from working with the asbestos ceiling tiles, or advised that he should take any precautions to protect himself from breathing in the asbestos dust and fibres.  He was never provided with a mask or any other equipment to protect him from the asbestos. 

Mr Smith eventually took over the company, but sold it in 2007. He then devoted all of his time to work around his home for the benefit of his family.  All of the work was carried out to an extremely high standard and this included maintaining the swimming pool, a 500 gallon salt water marine fish tank, a large garden and custom-built woodwork inside his house and garden furniture. He used to grow coral which he would exchange for fish food and other consumables he needed for the fish tank He did not need to employ any other people to do any of this work, but once he began to suffer from mesothelioma, it proved to be difficult to find others to carry out the services, particularly maintaining the interior of his home, to the standard that he had maintained himself. 

He began to suffer from pains in his chest around the middle of July 2013 and, following a CT scan and a biopsy, he was diagnosed with mesothelioma in October 2013.  He had radiotherapy but this, sadly, proved to be unsuccessful and he passed away on 15 March 2014.

The claim was carried on by his widow. She made enquiries to try and replace all of the work that her husband had done around their home and garden. Some of the work had been done to such a high standard that she had difficulty in finding anyone suitably qualified to do it. Other services could be replaced but proved to be expensive, for example, maintaining the swimming pool, garden and fish tank.

The claim was controversial because the amount claimed for loss of her husband's services was significantly higher than is usually awarded by the Courts for placing the work carried out in gardening and DIY.  The claim settled for a substantial amount to reflect the high cost of replacing the services carried out by Mr Smith.

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