In a case which bitterly revealed the difficulty faced by litigants involved in historic asbestos cases, a widow who claimed that her husband’s death was caused by exposure to the lethal substance whilst working in a cemetery in the 1970s has received a judge’s sympathy – but not a penny in compensation.
The widow’s bricklayer husband of 40 years had – four months before he died from cancer in 2011 – recounted details of how he had inhaled asbestos dust whilst decorating a ceiling in a graveyard building. Her lawyers claimed that his employer at the time, a local authority, had failed in the duty of care it owed him.
The Court found that the widow was a ‘witness of truth’ and that her husband had probably been describing work that he had done on the ceiling of a mess room used by gravediggers. However, three subsequent surveys of the building had not revealed any traces of asbestos.
The judge ruled, “At the end of the day, I am driven to the conclusion that, whatever he must have believed on looking back at events, I am not satisfied that there was any form of plaster or decorative coating that contained asbestos. Whilst I have great sympathy with the deceased, and for his widow, I am compelled to conclude that the burden of proof has not been discharged and that the claim must be dismissed.”
This unfortunate case highlights the vital importance of ensuring that a full and detailed account is obtained from the person suffering from the asbestos related disease as to where, how and when he worked with asbestos before it is too late and the evidence is lost.
Instructing a solicitor following diagnosis will help to ensure that as much evidence as possible can be obtained at an early stage, including details of other workers who may have worked with the asbestos victim since there evidence can often be crucial to help support a compensation claim.
If you, or someone you know needs legal assistance in respect of any related issues please contact James Davies on0800 091 4251 or complete our online enquiry form.