March 19, 2024

Former paper mill worker receives six-figure sum after developing mesothelioma

Posted in Mesothelioma

RWK Goodman’s specialist asbestos disease team has settled a claim for a gentleman against his former employer following his diagnosis with mesothelioma, an asbestos related cancer.

Mr W began feeling breathless at the beginning of 2021. He contacted his GP in the May and was referred for a chest x-ray, which revealed a build-up of fluid on his lungs. Following months of scans, tests and a biopsy, Mr W was sadly diagnosed with mesothelioma on 9 August 2022.

Following his diagnosis, Mr W instructed our specialist asbestos disease solicitor, Laura Wilkinson, to represent him in a compensation claim against his former employer.

Between 1962 and 1972, Mr W worked at Reed Paper Mill in Aylesford Kent as a Guillotine Operator cutting paper into blocks. He also worked overtime most weekends cleaning the paper-making machines. Some of the pipework feeding the machines were lagged with asbestos and Mr W and his colleagues disturbed them during the cleaning process, releasing asbestos dust and fibres which he inhaled. Mr W was not provided with any protective clothing to prevent or limit his asbestos exposure.

Mr W later worked at Imperial Paper Mills in Gravesend, Kent between 1972 and 1980. He was employed as a guillotine operator and, later, a cutter man. Asbestos lagged pipes ran throughout the premises to feed the papermaking machines and Mr W worked closely alongside them. He even sat on the asbestos-lagged pipes whilst taking his lunch breaks and recalled maintenance being carried out on them regularly. Such disturbance caused the release of asbestos dust and fibres, which Mr W could not help but inhale. Again, he was not provided with any protective clothing or equipment to protect him from such exposure.

Laura obtained a medical report from Dr Christopher Davies, Respiratory Consultant. Dr Davies’ opinion was that Mr W’s asbestos exposure at Reed Paper Mills and Imperial Paper Mills was sufficient to contribute to the risk of him developing mesothelioma. He believed that Mr W’s life expectancy had been cut short by almost 9 years as a result of the mesothelioma.

Mr W gave us the names of several people he had worked alongside at the above sites and we were able to track down one of them who worked as a lorry driver making/picking up deliveries to both sites at the relevant time. We obtained a witness statement from him in which he recalled seeing asbestos lagged pipes at the mills.

Having served witness and medical evidence on the insurers for the companies on risk in respect of the Reed Paper Mill exposure and not received any liability admissions, Laura issued Court proceedings in the High Court against the companies, RELX PLC (formerly Reed Paper Group Limited) and SCA Euroliner Limited (formerly R P & B (UK) Limited). No insurers could be traced in respect of Mr W’s asbestos exposure at Imperial Paper Mill (his employer at the time was found to be dissolved and so a claim could not be issued against it direct).

A Case Management Conference (“CMC”) before a Master of the Court took place in November 2023 by which point Laura had already obtained a report from a care expert detailing Mr W’s present and future care needs. At the CMC, a timetable for the exchange of evidence, including engineering evidence, up to an eventual trial was laid down.

Laura obtained a further witness statement from Mr W going into more detail about his asbestos exposure at Reed Paper Mills and she instructed a forensic engineer to prepare a report.

Shortly after serving Mr W’s additional witness evidence on the Defendant insurers, a settlement offer was received from them. Settlement negotiations ensued and the claim then settled in the sum of £210,000 gross. Included in the settlement was an agreement with the Defendant insurers to fund any private medical treatment that Mr W may choose to have.

Laura commented:

“Mr W wanted to settle his claim during his lifetime and, in fact, his claim was worth more if settled on this basis given that he does not have any financial dependants. It was therefore imperative to progress Mr W’s claim as quickly as possible. Fortunately, the claim settled fairly quickly after the CMC.

I am pleased to have achieved some justice for him during his lifetime. Mr W now has the financial means to get in private carers to support the care that he already receives from his family. There is the added reassurance of knowing that he can have private medical treatment should he so wish.”

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