Following our successful appeal in our case of Bussey, where appeal court judges overruled the standard by which 'safe' levels of exposure to asbestos have historically been used to deny compensation to people exposed to asbestos at work, our most recent settlement in the case of Alan Kaszubowski sadly highlights how important that judgement was.
Mr Kaszubowski was exposed to asbestos working first as an apprentice, then a qualified carpenter in the late 1960s, early 1970s for a company called YJL London Ltd. Alan's job was to hand saw hundreds of asbestos sheets used for insulating runs of pipework in building work at Borough Polytechnic, south London.
These sheets were pre-cut to size in a 'tunnel' area on site by teams of carpenters, including Mr Kaszubowski, who remembers working whole eight-hour shifts sawing the sheets for three or four days at a time. He remembers working without masks or aspirators and with no dust extraction equipment, meaning the workers were surrounded by thick dust in the air.
Having been diagnosed with mesothelioma in 2016 aged 68, Mr Kaszubowski brought a claim against his former employers, who refused to admit breach of duty on the basis that Alan's exposure to asbestos fell below the threshold set out in the 1960s. In the meantime, Alan, becoming increasingly ill, had to go through long days of chemotherapy to attempt to halt the cancer.
In our appeal on behalf of David Bussey, we argued that defendants should not be allowed to use this threshold to deny liability, and the judges agreed.
Tragically, however, this decision came after the defendants in Mr Kaszubowski's case were able to drag out the case, arguing Mr Kaszubowski's exposure was 'not particularly hazardous', citing standards published by the Ministry of Labour in 1966 and 1968. Mr Kaszubowski died without receiving the compensation to which he was entitled.
The eventual settlement will now benefit Mr Kaszubowski 's family but it is extremely painful to them that the case was not settled during his lifetime because of the defendant's refusal to admit liability.
The Bussey decision should ensure that other families in similar situations do not experience such delays, compensation, but we are well aware that is small comfort for Alan's family.
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