The widow of Dennis Cornhill instructed Caroline Pinfold of Fieldfisher after her husband died from mesothelioma in June 2013. Sadly, not only had Mr Cornhill suffered considerable pain as a result of the mesothelioma before he died, he had also lost the power of speech and was unable to give any information about how he had been exposed to asbestos in his work at Reed's Paper Mills in Aylesford, Kent.
It was therefore necessary to try and obtain witness evidence in order to pursue the claim. Although Mrs Cornhill had worked at the paper mills herself when she was younger, she did not work in the same area as her husband. It was one of Kent's oldest paper mills and various other family members had also worked there when it was the largest employer in the area, but many of the potential witnesses had also passed away.
Despite an appeal for witnesses in a local newspaper, no witnesses came forward. Eventually another former employee contacted his brother, who had moved out of the area, and fortunately he was able to provide very good evidence to assist with the claim.
Medical evidence was also obtained to confirm that the mesothelioma had been caused by asbestos exposure at the paper mill. It emerged that Mr Cornhill had also suffered from a very rare condition, paraneoplastic syndrome, which is primarily thought to be due to an immune response mounted against the mesothelioma tumour which has an unwanted side effect that the immune response is then directed by mistake to the sufferer's own neural tissue. In this case the immune response was directed to Mr Cornhill's brain causing cerebellar degeneration. This was responsible for causing problems with speech which began approximately four years prior to Mr Cornhill's death and later his problems with mobility.
The claim was disputed by the insurers of the paper mill and court proceedings were issued. The claim settled on a full liability basis a few weeks before it was due to be heard in the High Court.