Family Of Asbestos Victim Granted Justice At High Court Hearing

Expert Lawyer Says Case Shows Companies Are Not Exempt From The Law


By Helen MacGregor

Lawyers acting on behalf of the family of a former metal tester who died of an asbestos–related cancer have won their battle for justice after a High Court judge found one of his former employers responsible and agreed it should pay a substantial undisclosed settlement.

Derek Billingham died of mesothelioma, a cancer on the lining of the lungs caused by inhaling deadly asbestos dust, aged just 59. His family instructed industrial illness experts at Irwin Mitchell to launch a claim against his former employers for failing to protect him.

The father-of-one from Cradley Heath worked for Lloyds British Inspection Services Ltd from 1968 to 1970. The company repeatedly disputed they were at fault, meaning the legal team were left with no choice but to issue court proceedings.

Before his death in August 2008, Derek told lawyers that he remembered being exposed to substantial dust whilst working at Cottam Power Station in Nottinghamshire on behalf of Lloyds when he threw chains over steel girders to test the strength of the metal which caused a shower of dust to fall down.

Hayley Hill from Irwin Mitchell’s specialist asbestos team says the judgement handed down at the High Court in Birmingham last week by Mr Justice Bean means Derek’s partner Edna Hill and daughter Lisa Billingham can finally come to terms with their loss and begin to move forward with their lives.

Hayley said: “Derek’s loved ones have been waiting over four years for today’s judgement which could have been sorted much quicker if Lloyds had admitted liability sooner, saving the need for us to launch proceedings at court.

“During the trial the judge supported our evidence that Derek was exposed to asbestos whilst employed by Lloyds to work at Cottam Power Station and that he was never provided with any protective clothing or warned of the dangers of being exposed to the deadly dust.

“Companies have been well aware of the risks of asbestos since the 1960s and 1970s so there is no excuse for workers from this period to be dying from a related disease now. We hope this case highlights to other firms that just because mesothelioma is caused by exposure to the dust in the past, it does not make them exempt from the law now.

“It is sad that Derek wasn’t able to live to see his family’s future made secure and whilst no amount of money can turn back the clock and bring Derek back, we hope today’s judgment draws a line under this tragedy and allows the family to begin rebuilding their lives.”

Derek’s partner of 19 years, Edna, said: “Before he died Derek was desperate to see justice for what had happened to him but sadly he never got the chance before the illness took him completely.

“We were determined to fight on in his name and not give up until someone was held accountable. We had so many plans for our future and were looking forward to a long and happy retirement together, but sadly we never got chance to do the things we planned. Nothing will being Derek back, which is still hard to accept but we can now begin to look forward.

“The court decision feels like a huge weight has been lifted and we can finally remember Derek for the wonderful person he was without the legal battle hanging over us.”


Read more about Irwin Mitchell’s expertise relating to Mesothelioma claims