Widow Of Asbestos Victim Praises Hospice As Lawyers Secure Settlement

Irwin Mitchell Secure Funds For Widow And Hospice After Former Film And TV Lighting Technician’s Death


The widow of a lighting technician who worked on film and TV productions across the UK has won her battle for justice against his former employers after he died of an asbestos-related disease.

Specialist industrial illness lawyers at Irwin Mitchell Solicitors secured an undisclosed settlement on behalf of his family which includes almost £20,000 to cover the costs of his care at The Peace Hospice in Watford.

John O'Donoghue died of mesothelioma, a cancer caused by breathing in harmful asbestos, aged just 64 in February 2011. He was exposed to the deadly dust in the 1960s in his early career as an electrician before going on to have a hugely successful career as a lighting technician on major films and TV shows produced in the UK such as The Bill, The Sweeney and the Robin Hood movie.

It can take decades for the symptoms of mesothelioma to develop and his work with asbestos was traced back to the 1960s when he was an apprentice electrician at Troughton & Young Electrical (now known as Balfour Beatty Workplace Ltd) and as an electrician at Electrical Installations (now known as Anfield 1 Ltd).

Before his death he instructed asbestos-related disease experts at law firm Irwin Mitchell to investigate where and why he was exposed to the deadly dust. His widow Barbara, 65, continued the battle for justice on his behalf and lawyers have now secured a settlement from the two firms to provide her and the family with the financial security John would have provided had he not become terminally ill.

He was very well respected in the film industry and would have continued working long after retirement age on a freelance basis. His widow Barbara O'Donoghue, from Hertfordshire, said he loved his work and it crushed him when he had to stop working.

The sixty-five-year-old, who stopped working herself as a self-employed psychotherapist in 2010 to care for him, said: “He was always the sort of person to keep busy and usually had a DIY project on the go. He was always very fit and active up until he was diagnosed with cancer and to see him like this was heartbreaking for me and our sons too as they had never seen their dad ill.

“John was very dedicated to his work and had a great reputation. It’s hard to take in that it was essentially his early career as an electrician when he was exposed to asbestos which has led to his death.”  

In the 1960s John worked in and around London on large construction projects such as industrial buildings near Heathrow Airport and several hotels and office blocks. His work would involve installing electrical cables alongside fitters who were mixing asbestos to lag pipe work in ceiling spaces.

Shaheen Mosquera a specialist asbestos-related disease lawyer at Irwin Mitchell, said: “Despite much of John’s work often being in confined spaces he was never warned about the dangers of asbestos or given a facemask to protect him from the dust generated.

“Nothing can bring John Back but hopefully the settlement will give the family some sense of justice and provide them with the security he would have provided had he not become ill.

“Sadly, although the effects of exposure to the material were well known, many employers did not do enough to protect their workers and the victims and their families are paying the price years later.”

In early 2009 John first developed pains in his chest but tests didn’t show anything untoward and it was not till the couple had to cut short a holiday to Spain in September 2009 that they realised his illness might be something serious. More tests in October 2009 revealed that he had mesothelioma, a terminal cancer caused by exposure to asbestos, leaving the family devastated.

As his illness became worse John was cared for at The Peace Hospice for around four months from September 2010 to January 2011. Experts at Irwin Mitchell were able to recover almost £20,000 for the hospice to cover the care costs.

Barbara said: “John received excellent care at the hospice and the nursing staff were all marvellous. He really benefitted from his time at the Day Centre and was able to bond with the other cancer sufferers becoming much more confident.

“They were able to keep an eye on him and ask him about his pain and if it was bad they would get the doctor to see him. I’m so pleased we were able to get the cost of his care back so they can help others in similar situations.”

Shaheen Mosquera of Irwin Mitchell added: “We are pleased to have also been able to recover the costs of his care at The Peace Hospice. The hospice relies on charity donations to meet more than 75 per cent of its costs so the funds we were able to recover for the care John received in his four months are crucial.”

Hospice Director of Fundraising and Communications, Paul Gauntlett from The Peace Hospice, said: “We provide inpatient care, day care, an outpatient service, complementary therapy, a hospice at home service and family services including spiritual care and bereavement support.

“We need to raise £3.8 million of charitable income each year in order to run and develop our services as all the care we give to our patients and their families is free. This is why we are so grateful that Irwin Mitchell Solicitors have been able to recover the costs of care provided to John.”