Fieldfisher's leading Personal Injury team has achieved a landmark settlement against Cape Asbestos on behalf of a former resident of Bowburn village, County Durham, after she suffered asbestos poisoning between 1967 and 1983.
Caroline Wilcock brought a claim against Cape Intermediate Holdings PLC (previously known as The Cape Asbestos Company Ltd), which was due to be heard on Wednesday 16 October 2013. However on Thursday 10 October 2013, Caroline settled her claim against Cape Asbestos for a substantial sum.
Caroline, who now lives in London, was exposed to asbestos that was coming from the asbestos factory in Bowburn, County Durham, where she grew up. The factory allowed dust from its activities to escape into the neighbourhood, which settled on cars and window ledges. Local children would write in the dust as they made their way to school. As a direct result of this exposure Caroline, now aged 51, has developed the asbestos malignancy known as "mesothelioma".
The company that operated the factory no longer exists. Public liability insurance has never been and is not now compulsory, so there is no insurance fund to which any claim could be made. The Government's proposed Mesothelioma Compensation Scheme does not cover claims of this kind; in any case Caroline would not be eligible as she was diagnosed before the scheme came into operation.
Caroline therefore brought a claim against the parent company, "Cape Asbestos". This claim is groundbreaking, as it extends the scope of the recent Court of Appeal case of Chandler v Cape PLC to cover not just employees of subsidiary companies but also people living in the vicinity of subsidiary companies.
The Fieldfisher team was led by Andrew Morgan.
Andrew said: "There are few lawyers and law firms who would take on a claim that presented such obstacles and that posed such risks. I am delighted that we were able to obtain substantial monetary recognition for Caroline but I fear the Government's intended reforms to the financing of mesothelioma claims will bring an end to such public interest litigation."
Caroline added: "I am pleased and relieved at this outcome. I hope that my case now encourages other people in similar circumstances to seek redress. I feel I had a responsibility to the community I grew up in to pursue my claim and to now talk about it publicly. My case establishes that the people of Bowburn were exposed to the dangers of asbestos over forty years ago and were largely unaware or unable to do anything to protect themselves and their children.
"I am angry that I and other children came into contact with asbestos whilst playing in our village and around our homes, and feel certain that my case will not be in isolation. I sincerely hope that my testimony and the statements from my witnesses are now on record, so that any others cases following mine can have speedy access to the expert medical and legal help they deserve. I would like to thank these witnesses for coming forward and giving testimony, and my mother and sister who have tirelessly researched and gathered local knowledge. I would also like to thank my legal team who have worked so diligently to prepare this case for court and have supported, advised and guided me throughout with their experience and compassion."
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