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Case Study

Successful claim for Mirror Group librarian exposed to asbestos

Alan Hemple started work at the Daily Mirror newspaper as soon as he left school at the age of 15 in 1958 and worked for them until he retired in June 2001. Initially he worked in the postal department before transferring the cashier's department and then the telephone room. In 1977 he transferred to work in the library, becoming Chief Librarian for the Mirror Group in 1986.

The library contained an extensive archive of old photographs stored in boxes on racking. In about 1985 the colour production process was moved to Watford and all of the archive material was transferred to an area that had previously been a foundry in the building in Holborn Circus, where Alan was based. It fell to Alan and other members of his team to clear out the old foundry area and clean this up so that the archive material could be stored correctly. Alan had fond memories of his work for the paper but believed that this was the source of the asbestos dust which caused his mesothelioma because there was no other known source.

Alan was diagnosed with mesothelioma in July 2014 after having fluid drained from his lung and a biopsy in the previous month. He instructed Caroline Pinfold to pursue a compensation claim on his behalf. Since Alan himself had no real knowledge about whether or not there was any asbestos in the building where he had worked, it was necessary for Caroline to speak to several former work colleagues and investigate this on his behalf. Former work colleagues confirmed that there were pipes covered with asbestos lagging in the old foundry area and those who had been part of the team clearing it out when the archive material was moved in there confirmed that there had been substantial quantities of dust and debris, including old bits of lagging. All of this material had to be cleared so that the library material could be stored properly. They also identified other potential sources of asbestos exposure in parts of the buildings where Alan had worked during the course of his career with the newspaper.

Unfortunately, it was not possible to conclude the claim during Alan's lifetime and it was carried on by his widow Eileen following his death. Sadly, as reported by the medical expert, Dr Robin Rudd, "the degree of pain and suffering in this case was significantly greater than average". Alan had suffered a very distressing complication of involvement of the spinal cord resulting in weakness of the legs and severe constipation. He had also suffered from severe and intractable pain which was not completely relieved by morphine and other analgesics. Eileen looked after Alan at home from the time that he was discharged from hospital in April until he passed away, with assistance from their children and the local hospice.

Liability was contested and the defendants also disputed the amount claimed.  Court proceedings were issued and the case was listed for hearing in the Royal Courts of Justice in June 2016. It was settled on a full liability basis only one week before it was due to be heard. The compensation included money claimed on behalf of St Luke's Hospice.

Eileen wrote to Caroline afterwards:

"I would like to express my personal thanks for all that you have done for Alan and myself.  From the very first time you visited our home you showed kindness and compassion at all times and always kept me informed every step of the way.  Alan was dearly loved by myself and his family and is missed more than words can say, and no amount of money can replace him.  However he would be pleased to know that my future is financially secure, thanks to your hard work.  I would not hesitate to recommend Fieldfisher for their excellent service, professionalism and dedication."

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