Exiled Batley Asbestos widow criticises company over death of husband

Asbestos death

03.05.2006

A widow who lived in Batley before emigrating to Australia has criticised one of the regions manufacturing companies after successfully concluding a hard-fought legal battle against it over the asbestos related death of her husband.

Mrs Aileen Gardner, 72, was speaking publicly for the first time about the case which saw bed linen and household goods producer the John Cotton Group, of Nunbrook Mills, Mirfield, pay her a £92,500 out-of-court settlement last year.

Her remarks followed the company finally agreeing to meet her reasonable legal costs of pursuing the claim against it.

 

Asbestos claim

Mrs Gardners husband, Jack, was 73 when he died from asbestos-related cancer mesothelioma in October 2001. He worked for the John Cotton Group between late 1958 and 1960. It is believed he came into contact there with asbestos dust and fibres while unloading and cleaning old hessian sacks, which had previously contained the hazardous material.

Mrs Gardner, who has lived in Australia since 1972, commented: I feel angry and upset that my husband is dead through no fault of his own. Hes left behind four grown-up children and their families and we all miss him terribly. No amount of money will ever compensate for the loss we all feel.

Her payout and costs were secured with the help of Helen Ashton, of national law firm Irwin Mitchell, based at the firms offices in Sheffield's Riverside.

Ms Ashton said: I was particularly disheartened by the aggressive stance the company took in defending this case. Had it not been for its reluctance to accept it ever employed Mr Gardner, or admit he had been exposed to asbestos during the course of his work, the case could have been resolved much earlier than it was.

 

Asbestos solicitors

The John Cotton Group, via their solicitors, continually attempted to discourage Mrs Gardner from pursuing her claim for compensation. It was only on the day before the trial was due to start that the company finally made any realistic proposal for settlement and compensation for Mrs Gardner was agreed.

It decided to dispute it had employed Mr Gardner, despite him providing a statement confirming his employment there, as well as drawing a detailed sketch plan of the inside of the factory premises. A witness also subsequently came forward to confirm that Mr Gardner had worked for the company.

In his statement Mr Gardner said: The process of unloading the sacks and placing them in a metal tube for cleaning meant I would breathe in asbestos dust in the air. Asbestos is very difficult to remove and the fibres would frequently get stuck in my clothes, hair and on the floor of the factory, which I would regularly sweep in order to keep the area clean.

In the 18 months I was employed there I was never warned of the risks of working with asbestos, nor was I ever provided with any respiratory protection.

Ms Ashton added: Mrs Gardner had been through more than enough as a result of her husbands illness and death, and I was astounded by the way the company chose to defend this case. Employers should help, not hinder, the process that provides widows and families with the compensation they rightly deserve.

If you or a loved one has been affected by an asbestos related illness, our solicitors can help you to claim compensation. See our Asbestos Claims page for more information.

Relevant contact - Helen Ashton