Personal Injury

Teacher passes away after mesothelioma diagnosis

Our client’s husband, a former teacher, passed away from mesothelioma. Read more about his story here, and how our experts helped his family to secure compensation.

14 October 2022

Expert profile of Jordan Bell

Our client

Shortly after losing their loved one, Steven’s* family reached out to Slater and Gordon’s specialist asbestos lawyers. Steven had been diagnosed with mesothelioma after becoming extremely unwell, but his condition deteriorated so quickly that it unfortunately wasn’t possible for him to speak to a mesothelioma lawyer about where he might have been exposed to asbestos before he passed away.

Although his family didn’t know where Steven had come into contact with asbestos dust, his death was referred to the local Coroner who encouraged the family to seek legal advice about pursuing a potential compensation claim in connection with Steven’s death. They were advised to do so because mesothelioma is recognised to be caused by asbestos exposure in the majority of cases.

How Slater and Gordon helped

The national head of Slater and Gordon’s asbestos claims team, Jordan Bell, set out investigating the circumstances of this potential claim. This involved researching Steven’s former employers, from the time of him leaving school to the time of his retirement. While doing so, Steven’s employment for several decades at a prestigious art school became the focus of Jordan’s investigation.

Steven had been employed as a lecturer for many years in a building which was constructed in the early 1970s. To investigate whether asbestos was present within that building, Jordan was able to secure a large number of documents through a Freedom of Information request. This included a series of asbestos surveys dating back to the 1980s, all of which confirmed the presence of very large quantities of asbestos throughout this building. Asbestos had actually been sprayed onto the building’s steel frame during its construction, a common method of “fireproofing” steel frame buildings at that time.

However, to pursue an asbestos claim for compensation, it wasn’t enough to establish that asbestos was present in Steven’s workplace. We needed to show how Steven had directly come into contact with asbestos dust. This was far from straight forward, especially as Steven had worked in a capacity not typically associated with asbestos exposure. To provide further insight into how Steven may have come into contact with asbestos during his work at the school, Jordan was able to trace and interview several of Steven’s former colleagues.

In doing so, he learnt that there were small rooms within the art school building which had been adopted over the years as storage spaces, some of which contained uncovered steel beams with the sprayed asbestos coating. One of those storage spaces had been used by Steven, and even though the asbestos coating had not been intentionally disturbed, it had dried out and degraded over time, resulting in asbestos dust and fibres being released into the atmosphere where Steven was working.

Several colleagues were able to give evidence that Steven had used that room to sort materials used in his lectures, and even that one of those rooms containing a desk had become almost a second office for Steven during his time at the school.

The process of the claim

Initially, this claim was robustly defended, and liability was denied by the defendant. It was argued that any exposure would “only” have been to minimal quantities of asbestos dust, and that it would be unfair to hold the school responsible for Steven’s mesothelioma after exposing him to “low levels” of asbestos dust.

Armed with the evidence of Steven’s former colleagues and the documents he’d obtained, Jordan was able to commence court proceedings against the defendant. The court action was pursued in the specialist asbestos claims list at the Royal Courts of Justice in London. Due to the weight and content of the evidence prepared on behalf of Steven’s family, and Jordan’s proactivity and perseverance in building the claim, we were able to secure a substantial settlement in a case where it was initially unknown where asbestos exposure even took place.

How can Slater and Gordon help you?

Asbestos was widely used for many years in the construction industry, and estimates even today put the number of schools containing asbestos at in excess of 80%. Because of this, our specialist asbestos team are regularly instructed in cases where individuals who worked in education or their families don’t know where asbestos exposure occurred. Having worked on asbestos cases for decades, we have access to archives of past cases spanning over 40 years, enabling us to identify where claimants may have been exposed to asbestos and gather witness statements to settle the claim as quickly as possible.

In these situations, we always urge those individuals and families not to put off contacting one of our specialist asbestos solicitors, who are experienced in investigating and securing compensation in complex claims such as these.

If you or your loved one have suffered from an asbestos related disease, simply contact our experts today on 0330 041 5869, or you can contact us online here to learn more about your options going forward.

*Our client’s name has been changed for anonymity

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