Ian Gear Developed Hypersensitivity Pneumonitis And Secondary Pulmonary Fibrosis
A haulage driver who has been given a maximum of five years to live after exposure to dust from animal feed left him with incurable disease, has married his long-term love – just 10 days after receiving a settlement from his former employer.
Ian Gear, 55, from Stafford, wed partner of 20 years, Laura, in a registry office ceremony in Stone, Staffordshire only a number months after being diagnosed with a terminal lung disease.
The former HGV driver has just been awarded an undisclosed six-figure settlement from former employers Ed Weetman (Haulage & Storage) Limited after instructing expert workplace injury lawyers at Irwin Mitchell to investigate how he developed the life-limiting illness.
The law firm found that Ian had been negligently exposed to the fine dust from wheat, rape meal, palm kernel, sunflower meal, barley and soya, used as animal feed, during his time as a 32 tonne blower lorry driver, delivering the grain for Ed Weetman Ltd from 2004 to 2012.
The father of four, who left the firm on Christmas Eve 2012, now plans to use the settlement to fund substantial adaptations to his home including making the property wheelchair accessible and installing a downstairs bedroom and wet room.
He said: “Since leaving Weetmans my symptoms have improved but I still find that I become breathless easily.
“At first I was hopeful that by leaving Weetmans I would make a complete recovery, but sadly that isn’t the case. It’s extremely upsetting as I find it difficult even to play football with my son; something that I would have done before without any difficulty.
“From the moment I received my first diagnosis I wanted answers, not just for me and Laura but for the children. When I was told I also had secondary pulmonary fibrosis and that my condition was now terminal it made the battle for answers even more important.
“The settlement can’t take away what has happened to me or give me more time with my family, but it can fund the changes to our home to make sure I can live comfortably during the time I have left.
“Marrying Laura is a new chapter, and being able to access the right support and equipment to help me live with my condition will mean I have the best possible quality of life for however long it lasts.”
Ian first started to notice tightness in his chest shortly after his 50th birthday in June 2012. Even with gentle exercise he found he was getting out of breath easily and he and Laura began to worry.
After undergoing lung function tests in hospital, doctors told Ian his lung capacity was severely reduced to just 52%. He was sent for a CT scan and in October 2012 was diagnosed with hypersensitivity pneumonitis; an inflammation of the alveoli within the lung caused by hypersensitivity to inhaled organic dusts.
With his health deteriorating and with no other available work within the company, Ian left Ed Weetman Ltd on Christmas Eve 2012 and his symptoms improved. But in November 2015 Ian was told that he had secondary pulmonary fibrosis as a result of the hypersensitivity pneumonitis. His condition is now terminal.
Alex Shorey, an expert industrial disease lawyer at Irwin Mitchell, representing Ian, said:
Expert Opinion“Ian and Laura were dealt a dreadful blow firstly when Ian was diagnosed with hypersensitivity pneumonitis and then when the secondary pulmonary fibrosis rendered his condition terminal.
“While nothing can turn back the clock, we are pleased to have been able to secure him a settlement which will ensure that he maintains a quality of life and independence during the remaining time he has with his family.
“Businesses have a duty of care to their staff and an obligation to keep them safe from the risks posed by their job. It is imperative that lessons are learned from Ian’s case so that no other employees suffer as he has.
“We hope that the conclusion of this case allows both Ian and Laura to move on and enjoy married life together.” Alex Shorey - Associate Solicitor
As well as embarking on married life, Ian now hopes to set up a website to share his story, offer support to other lung disease sufferers and raise awareness of industrial disease.
He said: “I really want to use my experience to help change outcomes for other people, or at least support fellow sufferers.
“I spent years, day in and day out, breathing in dust with no protection provided to me and no warning of the dangers. If I can highlight the risks with my story and spare someone else the same dreadful outcome, I would feel that something positive came out of this dreadful situation.”
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