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Case Study: Mr and Mrs W’s Successful Landmark Mesothelioma Case
JMW secured £110,000 compensation after a man was exposed to asbestos as part of deliveries to the Cape Asbestos factory in Middlesex.
Mr W was employed as a lorry driver and for more than a two-year period between 1958 and 1960, he made twice-weekly deliveries of lime to the Cape Asbestos site at Uxbridge in Middlesex. During these one-hour visits, Mr W was exposed to asbestos, which sadly led to an eventual diagnosis of mesothelioma in 2009, when Mr W was 74.
His treating oncologist encouraged Mr and Mrs W to make a claim for compensation. After a lot of consideration and appreciation for how many people had been affected by mesothelioma and other asbestos-related diseases, Mr W decided to make the claim and was put in touch with JMW Solicitors after visiting a support group. Andrew Lilley, Partner and head of industrial disease, handled the claim.
The Family’s Experience of the Claims Process
Unfortunately, Mr W passed away shortly after making the decision to claim compensation. Before he died, he urged Mrs W to continue with the claim and bring it to a conclusion. Mrs W has kindly shared some of her experiences of the early stages of the claims process with us:
“When I was able to speak with Andrew Lilley, from day one, he was an absolute gentleman. Andrew treated me and my family with the utmost respect when I needed it. Andrew was such a nice person, he went through everything, he gave me confidence, he said he would do everything in his power, and he did.”
A Landmark Case #1
Mr W was exposed to asbestos more than five years earlier than the long-accepted date for knowledge about the health implications of low doses of asbestos. The research undertaken by Andrew and his team suggested that Cape Asbestos, as one of the founding members of the Asbestosis Research Council, had more knowledge of these dangers than had previously been thought, and certainly more than most employers of the time.
After discussion with the family and our legal team, Mrs W told us that Mr W decided he felt it was right to make a claim, and try and set some precedent to support those individuals and their families who may be in a similar position.
A Landmark Case #2
Mr W’s case was also significant as the source of his exposure was at the Cape Asbestos Uxbridge site. That branch of the company no longer traded; although the PLC in charge of the group that traded from Barking still exists today. A Court of Appeal ruling had previously found that the PLC had a duty of care not only to their own employees, but also to employees in other parts of the Cape group. Andrew argued that this should also be applicable to site visitors, like Mr W. Mike Rawlinson QC, a leading asbestos disease silk, was drafted into the team, Cape was added to proceedings and the claim progressed.
Progressing the Claim
For the reasons outlined above, the date and circumstances of Mr W’s exposure to asbestos made the claim a very challenging one; Andrew needed to compile compelling evidence to support the case. This included an argument that the implications of asbestos exposure were clear to the industry and Cape Asbestos in particular, if not the general public, at the time of Mr W’s exposure, and that steps should have been taken to avoid his exposure. It also included argument of the wider applications of the Court of Appeal ruling against Cape.
Andrew conducted extensive research to secure evidence to support the case. In addition to the usual steps of securing witness statements from Mr and Mrs W, independent medical reports, and engineering evidence, we spent long hours considering the original medical research about mesothelioma going back to the early 1950s along with company documents from Cape board meetings and minutes of the Asbestosis Research Council from the same period. The defendants knew that a judgement against them would open the door for more claimants and so they were very reluctant to release documents and maintained a robust defence of the claim. We had previously advised Mrs W that the case may progress to a trial in court, and this proved to be correct and so we proceeded to trial at the Royal Courts of Justice.
Mrs W shares her memories of how Andrew’ s team and Michael Rawlinson QC performed in the run-up to, and during, the two-day trial:
“In court, our barrister was like a cat with a mouse, he was just not going to let go, and I sat there, and I just felt that they were doing this for my husband, and my husband has had his day in court, and that’s what he would have wanted.
"I would go anywhere and praise those people – Andrew, his staff - I can’t praise him enough, and my family said the same. When we came out of the court [on the second day of the trial], every one of my family said ‘it doesn’t matter if we’re successful with the claim or not, the point is, they fought for dad.’
“My husband got the best team, I would have said, anywhere, and all the way through, from day one, with Andrew and his team…well, I can’t praise him enough. He always treated me with the utmost respect, and he’d done everything to explain the situation to me, and I felt that I was being treated with dignity…great dignity and respect at all times, not just for myself, but for my family, and they came away fully confident, not worrying about the money, but knowing that they were up there doing everything, for their dad, my husband.”
A Positive Result
The evidence we collated included documents that had to be emailed from Australia in the early hours of the first day of the trial. These, together with documentation detailing Cape’s dealings in South Africa, transcripts from litigation in the US in the 1970s and countless academic papers meant that the trial was difficult for the Cape legal team to defend.
The difficulty of the case was demonstrated by the fact that it took some months for the judgement to be released. As a result of concerns on Cape’s behalf as to how the trial had gone for them and a fear of judgement being given against them, Andrew was able to negotiate an amicable resolution with the defendant’s legal team. Mrs W was awarded £110,000 in damages together with her full legal costs. We spoke to Mrs W about how she felt Andrew and the team handled the case and treated her:
“From the day I spoke to that young man…the way he spoke to me, the integrity, everything about him was unbelievable. If it helps anybody to go to JMW, I’d shout it from the roof of the court, because all this time I’ve been with them, including going to court, it was just unbelievable and, as I say, I cannot praise him enough, and I would have done the same, if we had not been successful.
“I would recommend Andrew and the team to anyone. Absolutely brilliant. I don’t know where you’ve found him, but he was brilliant. I just thank God that I found him. I cannot praise him enough. I would actually go as far as to say he was one in a million!
“Not once, not once, was I treated as anything other than a lady. I was treated with the utmost respect, and I cannot praise him enough.”
Mrs W has been clear that Andrew and the team have helped her to achieve closure following Mr W’s death, and we are pleased to have been able to help her and provide a resolution to the ordeal she was put through as a result of Cape’s negligence.
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If you know anyone who has suffered as a result of asbestos exposure at a Cape Branch or from any other employer, feel free to contact Andrew on 0161 828 1958 for free, no-obligation advice.