December 17, 2019

Family of former British Rail coach finisher receive compensation after death from the ‘Swindon Disease’

John joined the company in 1945 and began his apprenticeship in 1947 which he completed in 1952.  After undertaking national service he returned to British Rail until 1962, working in the coach finishing department in shops 7 and 24 at the Swindon Railway Works. He returned in 1980 and worked there until 1986.

Pleural plaques diagnosis

In the 1990’s John was given the news that he had pleural plaques – scars on the lining of his lungs which developed as a result of exposure to asbestos. He sought legal advice at the time and received some damages. The medical expert said there was a risk that John could develop another asbestos illness in the future and to protect his position John settled his claim on a provisional damages basis. This meant that if the worst were to happen John or his family could claim further damages from the Department for Transport.


Sadly in April 2017 John began to experience pains in his chest and by the June they had become so severe that he was taken to hospital. Scans revealed a large build up of fluid in his lungs and mesothelioma was suspected. John’s Consultant recommended a biopsy but John was on the same ward as another chap who suffered terrible pain following a biopsy so John decided against it. Sadly, John’s conditioned worsened and he passed away in October 2017. As the mesothelioma had not been confirmed in John’s lifetime his death was referred to the Coroner and a post mortem examination was ordered which confirmed the diagnosis.

Making a further claim

John was admitted to Prospect Hospice as his disease progressed and whilst there met one of his former colleagues who had also sadly developed mesothelioma. He suggested to John and his family that they get in touch with Jennifer.  John's widow Margaret and his daughter Sandra contacted Jennifer Seavor for advice.

In his previous claim John had made a witness statement in which he confirmed that his job was to fit inside panels and interiors to train coaches. The trains were insulated and fireproofed with blue asbestos which was sprayed on to the ceiling and sides of the carriages.  He had described how there was asbestos everywhere and a very dusty environment.  He had not been provided with any protective clothing or a face mask.

When John had returned to work for British Rail in the 1980s he undertook repairs and refurbishment including removing ceiling panels of carriages, which revealed deteriorating asbestos spray.

As liability had been resolved already in John’s first claim, Jennifer began gathering the further evidence needed to support the claim and losses which John’s family had incurred.

John was fit and well until his diagnosis of mesothelioma. Whilst he was 86 at the time of his death the medical expert thought John would have lived many years more but for his disease. His life was tragically cut short by mesothelioma, caused by asbestos exposure decades earlier. Prior to the onset of his illness John had cared for his wife Margaret, took care of household chores and also undertook DIY and gardening. Not long before he became ill, he and Margaret had bought a new house. They sold their previous home and moved in with their daughter Sandra whilst John redecorated the new house and got it ready for them to move in to – although sadly the couple never moved in.

John’s daughter Sandra and his son Michael cared for John during his illness and now care for Margaret, replacing the care and support that John previously provided. Sandra has given up work in a senior position to care for her Mum full time. John’s claim has recently settled and his family received damages.

Jennifer Seavor who acted for John’s family said: “It was an honour to assist John’s family with a claim. They are lovely people and have been dealt a bitter blow in life to have lost John in such awful circumstances. Mesothelioma is a dreadful illness and sadly people continue to develop the condition even though the use of asbestos in the UK was banned in 1999.

John was exposed to asbestos as a young man but even when he returned to work for British Rail in the 1980’s, the laws in place aimed at protecting people form exposure, were still not being followed properly. The settlement cannot turn the clock back but I hope that it offers Margaret and her family financial security. I very much wish I could have met John.”

Sandra said: “ From our first contact, Jennifer treated us with great sensitivity, care and understanding. She guided us through the claims process, kept us regularly updated and supported us with regular monthly meetings at the ‘Swindon and Wiltshire Asbestos Support Group’ meetings hosted and sponsored by RWK. We are sorry that Jennifer did not meet Dad, but know that he would have been pleased that she had managed to get compensation to support Mum.”

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