A former electrician diagnosed with a terminal asbestos-related cancer after working as a contractor at one of the Queen’s official residences says the settlement he has received will provide his family with much-needed financial security.
Harold Hart, 67, of Kings Lynn, Norfolk, was diagnosed with mesothelioma in November 2009 following exposure to the deadly dust while working at Sandringham House in 1985 for electrical contractors G E Child and Son.
While at the company, Mr Hart also took part in an extensive refurbishment project at the former Dow Chemicals factory in Kings Lynn in 1984 and also came into contact with asbestos while working as a film projectionist at the Elephant and Castle Cinema in London for Associated British Cinemas (now Cineworld South East Cinemas), between October 1963 and January 1964.
Asbestos specialists at law firm Irwin Mitchell negotiated a settlement from Cineworld South East Cinemas Ltd and G E Child and Son’s insurer on behalf of Mr Hart, who has three children and 10 grandchildren, which will help to cover his loss of earnings and future care.
Mr Hart said: “I recall coming into contact with asbestos while working as an electrician at Sandringham House for G E Child and Son. I used the basements and underground walkways and tunnels to access the areas in which I was required to work.
“These areas were dusty with little or no ventilation and there was a lot of crumbly asbestos debris on the floor. It was a fantastic, grand place to work but I was never told about the dangers of asbestos.
“My job for G E Child & Son Limited also included working as an electrician at a large chemical production factory called Dow Chemicals, where I worked close to men who were required to remove old pipes covered in asbestos lagging. I was exposed to the asbestos on a daily basis for a year.
“Part of my job as a projectionist for Associated British Cinemas was to check the lighting and change any faulty bulbs. To access the lighting I would have to walk along a catwalk within the ceiling void, which was lined with asbestos, every day.
“Neither employer warned me about the dangers of asbestos nor was I given any protective clothing or a face mask.”
Mr Hart, who has been with his partner for more than 20 years, first began to notice his health deteriorating in 2009 when he rapidly lost weight and found it difficult to breathe.
Mr Hart’s GP referred him for further hospital tests, which showed his right lung had collapsed.
He had to give up his most recent job working as a driver for Lynn Star Distributions and Logistics Ltd in Kings Lynn. His illness also prevents him enjoying fishing, his favourite hobby. He has since endured chemotherapy to help control the cancer.
He added: “It was absolutely devastating for June and I to find out that I was suffering from mesothelioma. I’m constantly breathless and in pain and I’m unable to do the things I loved, such as fishing, although on a good day I still manage to enjoy my woodturning hobby in my workshop. It has also affected my ability to play with my grandchildren, which is upsetting and frustrating.
“I hope my case highlights the dangers of this deadly dust and companies take precautions to protect their staff in future so that other families don’t have to go through the same ordeal.
“I’m relieved a settlement has now been agreed and my family and I will be taken care of financially, particularly as I am now unable to work.”
Alice Humphreys, an asbestos related disease expert at Irwin Mitchell, who successfully pursued legal action against Associated British Cinemas and G E Child and Sons Ltd, said Mr Hart’s case is not uncommon.
She said: “The last few years have been very difficult for the Hart family as they come to terms with Harold’s illness, which has left him feeling constantly breathless, weak and unable to do the job and hobbies he loved.
“As the delay between exposure to asbestos dust and the onset of symptoms of mesothelioma is more than 30 years in most cases, people like Mr Hart are only now discovering their health has been affected as a result.
“Mesothelioma is an asbestos related cancer for which there is sadly no cure. Mr Hart’s case is not isolated and it’s always sad to learn of such exposure to asbestos when, even in the 1960s and 1970s, employers knew of the risks associated with the dangers of inhaling lethal fibres.
“No amount of money can make up for his illness, but
the settlement will provide him, and his family, with some financial security.”
If you or a loved one has been diagnosed with mesothelioma, our expert mesothelioma solicitors could help you claim compensation. See our Asbestos-Related Disease Claims Guide for more information.