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    Mesothelioma compensation claim: case study

    1. In September 2001, at the age of 64, Robert Winter developed flu like symptoms, a violent cough and experienced difficulty sleeping. Mr Winter’s GP suspected pneumonia, but when this proved incorrect he was referred to a consultant thoracic surgeon at a Bristol hospital.

    2. After explorative surgery Mr Winter was diagnosed with malignant mesothelioma. He was advised that there was no suitable treatment and that his condition was terminal.

    3. 43 years ago Mr Winter was employed by Cape Insulation Ltd as a lagger’s mate at Berkeley power station.

    4. In the course of his employment he was required to mix quantities of powdered asbestos with water to form an asbestos paste, which would then be applied by the laggers to insulate pipe work. The asbestos was supplied in powder form in large paper bags which were slit open with a knife, poured into a bucket and mixed into paste either using a mixer or by hand. This process produced clouds of airborne asbestos dust and was repeated throughout the day. His other duties included cutting pre-cast moulds, which were fitted as cladding. Cutting these moulds also generated high volumes of airborne asbestos dust. Finally the claimant would sweep up the accumulated dust from the scaffolding, walkways and inside the reactor. Mr Winter also recalled that the refreshment area where the workers spent their breaks was clouded with asbestos dust from their overalls.

    5. Asbestos fibres are amongst the smallest occurring types of mineral and are indestructible. If inhaled the fibres can collect in the lungs. The body’s defences cannot prevent them penetrating deep into the lung tissue where they often make their way to the pleura and can trigger genetic mutations which can eventually cause a cell to become malignant. The harmful nature of asbestos dust has been commonly known for many years and the Merewether and Price report published in 1930 confirmed the link between asbestos exposure and respiratory disease. Furthermore, letters and reports specifically concerning asbestos in the workplace were circulated by the Chief Inspector of Factories amongst others to lagging contractors in 1945, 1956 and 1958.

    6. Mr Winter issued proceedings against this Cape Insulation Ltd for breach of both their common law and statutory duties in failing to monitor the asbestos levels; failing to take proper precautions to reduce the airborne dust (e.g. damping, vacuuming); failing to provide adequate ventilation; and failing to provide any form of respiratory protection such as masks or ventilators.

    7. The Defendants, after initially resisting the claim, admitted liability but disputed causation. An interim payment was made on the 15th January 2003 for £30,000 and eventually the case was settled on the 3rd March 2003 for a gross sum of £170,000. The claim form was issued on the 14th October 2002 and the court case was concluded within 5 months and within Mr Winter’s lifetime.

    Humphreys & Co Bristol acted for the claimant on a no-win – no-fee basis.

    We are pleased to support

    North Bristol NHS Trust Mesothelioma Research Fund

    Avon Mesothelioma Foundation

    Mesothelioma UK