Over the years, the team and I have become experienced in knowing to which cases we can bring our professional expertise and work towards settlement. There are often difficulties to overcome, such as a company having gone into liquidation some years previously or an insurer being impossible to trace. There are however often ways around what appear insurmountable roadblocks.
We have, over time, built up an impressive resilience and dogged determination to succeed for our clients even when the case does not look promising.
One such case recently was a lung cancer claim on behalf of the family of a client who was exposed to asbestos working as a pipefitter for various employers during the 1960s and 70s.
Our client was originally diagnosed with pleural thickening after suffering from shortness of breath for around two years. He instructed me some years after he was first diagnosed. He then developed chest pains and was referred for a CT scan, MRI scan and PET scan. He underwent a thoracoscopy, biopsies were taken and he received the devastating diagnosis of asbestos related lung cancer.
In asbestos related disease claims, an injured person has three years from the date of their diagnosis to bring a claim. To succeed in such a claim, evidence of heavy exposure to asbestos is needed. I prepared a statement for the client which dealt with the frequency and duration of his exposure. From there, an expert engineer was instructed to calculate the dose of exposure that served as proof that the exposure threshold had been met.
Very sadly, the client died and the claim continued on behalf of his family. The death was reported to the Coroner and, unfortunately, the post mortem report concluded that the cause of death was not asbestos related lung cancer. At this point, the defendants assumed the family would discontinue the case because of the unsupportive post-mortem report.
But I was determined to continue and instructed a consultant pathologist to arrange an electron microscopic mineral fibre analysis of the lung tissue samples taken at post-mortem. The Pathologist concluded that the results showed that the deceased had "… inhaled significant amphibole crocidolite asbestos sufficient to increase his risk of developing lung cancer more than 2 fold".
In other words, the deceased had been heavily exposed to the most potent blue and brown asbestos. Not only that, but the Pathologist added that it was unusual to detect such high levels of blue and brown asbestos fibres in lung tissue samples.
In total, there were seven different employers liable for the deceased's exposure and Court proceedings were issued against each of the defendants. The deceased had smoked heavily for most of his life and the defendant made an offer suggesting a 30 per cent contributory negligence discount but I turned them down and we managed to settle the claim by reducing the contributory negligence discount to 15 per cent.
Asbestos related lung cancer claims are generally challenging, precisely because the client's evidence has to show very heavy exposure. As in this case, the medical expert has to comment on what the client's risk of developing lung cancer was if they had a history of smoking, something much more prevalent 30 or so years ago, and if the asbestos exposure had indeed doubled the risk.
I was particularly pleased to have settled this case for a six-figure sum on behalf of the family.
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