Claim settled for family of former Therfield School employee who died from mesothelioma
Michael Hanks worked at Therfield School as a woodwork and metalwork teacher from 1962/63 – 1987/88. During his employment he worked on a project with other staff and students at the school, helping with the re-building of the school’s sports pavilion. The old sports pavilion had asbestos cement sheeted roofs, which were pulled down, broken up and then buried on the school land.
In late 2017 Michael sadly began to feel unwell and had a couple of hospital admissions. It was thought he may have pneumonia but investigations led to him being diagnosed with mesothelioma. Michael was told his condition was due to exposure to asbestos and when he thought about it further, her remembered and told his family about the project he worked on whilst at Therfield School.
Michael was supported significantly by his local hospice during his illness but sadly passed away in July 2018, just months after his initial diagnosis. His family instructed us to investigate the circumstances of his exposure primarily with a view to seeking recovery of the costs of the hospice care Michael received, which whilst free, hospice care is funded primarily by charitable donations.
Whilst we had a good starting point in terms of some information about how Michael was exposed to asbestos we needed to undertake extensive research to prove the circumstances and establish the Council responsible for the school at the time Michael worked there, had been in breach of its duties towards Michael in allowing him to do work of this nature at a time when the dangers of asbestos were well known.
We undertook witness appeals online and in a local newspaper to try and trace other people who may have worked with Michael or attended the school at the time the work was going on. We obtained a number of supportive statements which suggested that asbestos mats, gloves and overshows were also used in metal work classes at the time. We undertook research at archives and museums and also found some contemporaneous documents which suggested the presence of asbestos materials in the school. A medical expert was instructed to prepare a medical report to substantiate the claim and information was collated regarding the financial losses.
Once the investigations were complete all the evidence was presented to the insurers of the Council and the parties then entered into negotiations. The claim subsequently settled in October 2021 for a sum in excess of £100,000 which included over £18,000 for the hospice that supported Michael during his illness.