He had to drill holes in asbestos water tanks which he had to fit in bottling plants, dairy shops and accommodation owned by the dairies. He also had to cut asbestos flues for boilers and water heaters and to remove old asbestos lagging from pipes in order to carry out repairs. In addition, he helped in the construction of buildings by cutting asbestos cement sheeting and fixing these to roofs.
He worked for Plumbing Services Limited as a plumber from their depot in Dagenham Road, Balham, London from about 1972 until about 1981. He was exposed to asbestos when cutting flues for boilers and using an asbestos compound when caulking around joints.
Neither of the employers provided Mr Pennings with a mask or any protection to prevent him from inhaling the asbestos dust and fibres during the course of his work. They did not warn him of the potential risks to his health or provide any information to him about the dangers of asbestos.
He had been well until he noticed that he was becoming more breathless in around August 2014. He was sent for a chest x-ray which showed fluid on his lung which had to be drained. He then had to be admitted to hospital as an emergency because of difficulty in breathing and more than 5 litres of fluid was drained from his chest. An in-dwelling chest drain was put in place in December 2014, which he had until he passed away in October 2015. He was diagnosed with mesothelioma following a VATS procedure and biopsy in December 2014.
He had chemotherapy but experienced severe side effects including sickness, extreme fatigue, nosebleeds, soreness of the mouth, numbness of the legs and pins and needles in the hands. The chemotherapy was discontinued after 4 cycles.
The permanent chest drain caused him a great deal of pain and discomfort. He and his wife drained fluid from his chest daily and the procedure became increasingly painful.
Mr Pennings was looked after at home by his wife, with assistance from the local hospice. Although liability was admitted by the insurers of his former employers during his lifetime, it was not possible to settle the claim before he passed away. He passed away shortly after his 64th birthday. The claim was therefore carried on by Mrs Pennings.
Mrs Pennings said:
"Bob was the love of my life whom I met when I was 16 years old and he was 19. We married as soon as we were able when I was just 18. We had two lovely daughters, one granddaughter and three grandsons. Bob had a very deprived childhood but was always such a positive loyal person who worked hard his whole life and did a lot for our daughters and my mum. He was extremely brave when dealing with his terrible illness which lasted exactly a year and five days. I feel honoured to have been his wife and to have shared my life with him for 45 years.
"My claim was handled extremely professionally by Caroline Pinfold from Fieldfisher. Not only did I receive an extremely good settlement, but Caroline went out of her way to be compassionate and understanding in her dealings with Bob and me and our family at all the times."
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