Kathleen Heath was diagnosed with the asbestos cancer of mesothelioma in April 2014 at the age of 60.
Kathleen had worked as a laboratory technician prior to retirement in July 2013 and she was looking forward to enjoying her retirement with her husband.
After Kathleen retired they decided to move which involved a lot of lifting and packing. That is when she first started to notice that she was becoming quite breathless. This was unusual because Kathleen was a keen walker and a member of a walking group and she also enjoyed line dancing. At that time Kathleen put the breathlessness down to old age. The breathlessness got worse and by October 2013 Kathleen had to stop the line dancing.
Kathleen was referred to the Queen Elizabeth Hospital King's Lynn for investigation and in February 2014 she had a chest X-ray which was suspicious and she was referred for further tests. By April 2014 Kathleen's breathing was so bad that she was admitted to hospital and remained an inpatient for 2 weeks. It was when she was an inpatient that the doctors at the hospital questioned her about her employment history and whether she had been exposed to asbestos. At that time Kathleen was in a lot of pain and was taking Morphine and therefore was not in any condition to think about her employment history. It was not until after she was discharged from hospital that she started to think about her employment history in detail.
Kathleen recollected that she had worked for a company which she knew as Rio Tinto Zinc which was acquired by Pasminco Europe (Smelting) Ltd and then Britannia Zinc Ltd. Kathleen had worked for these companies from 1989 to 1998 as a laboratory analyst and her job involved analysing new ore which was ground down so that it could be analysed. The ore was analysed in 3 laboratories and in total there were 8 large fume cupboards. Kathleen put the ore samples in 12 to 20 different beakers or platinum pots which were taken to the fume cupboards where Kathleen added various acids including hydrofluoric acid to the beakers/pots and placed them on the hot plate. Kathleen was only provided with rubber gloves even though she was handling dangerous acids.
Kathleen recollected that when she started her employment at Rio Tinto she was told by the Chief Chemist that the fume cupboards were lined with asbestos and that most of the equipment in the factory was lined with asbestos including all the furnaces. The fume cupboards were lined internally with the asbestos which was fitted to the sides and the top. Kathleen recollects that the asbestos lining was in a very poor condition and had deteriorated due to the age of the fume cupboards. Each morning a laboratory analyst had to sweep the dust which had gathered onto the hotplate with a brush and dust pan. The dust included asbestos dust because of the deteriorated asbestos lining.
Kathleen spent a lot of her day working close to the asbestos lined fume cupboards and brushed the dust from the inside of the cupboards. Little did she know that the dust she was sweeping included asbestos dust and fibres.
Kathleen contacted Fieldfisher solicitors at the end of April 2014 and we visited Kathleen at home in order to take a statement about her exposure to asbestos and we also assisted Kathleen with completing application forms for benefits for which she was eligible because of her diagnosis of mesothelioma.
Initial investigations included tracing Kathleen's former employers and even though the companies were dissolved we managed to trace the employers' liability insurers.
The claim was reported to Kathleen's former employers' representatives and they were trying to ascertain whether Kathleen may have been exposed to asbestos elsewhere or during her childhood. Kathleen provided detailed information about her childhood and believed that she had only been exposed to asbestos when working for Rio Tinto Zinc as a laboratory analyst.
A medical report was obtained from a respiratory physician and it confirmed that Kathleen's exposure to asbestos when working with the fume cupboards had caused the mesothelioma.
Solicitor Shaheen Mosquera was able to secure an interim payment of £50,000.00 on account of Kathleen's compensation in mid-July 2015 and in August 2015 Kathleen's claim was settled for just under £190,000.00. Initially, the other party had made a low offer but Kathleen did not accept the first offer and Shaheen was able to persuade the other side to increase their offer.
Kathleen was delighted that her case had settled without the need to issue court proceedings and said
"Thank you for all you have done for me to obtain this compensation for my illness. I now know that I should be able to cope in the future."
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