Family Reveal ‘Tragedy’ Of Grandmother’s Death After High Court Rules Present Day University Of Wolverhampton Liable
The family of a former photography technician are warning of the dangers of asbestos after exposure to the material at Wolverhampton Polytechnic caused her death.
Judith King was diagnosed in July 2020 with mesothelioma, a cancer of the lining of the lung associated with exposure to asbestos, often decades previously.
Following her diagnosis, Judith instructed specialist asbestos-related disease lawyers at Irwin Mitchell to investigate how she was exposed to asbestos. However, she died in June 2021 aged 79, before she could see her case concluded.
Judith’s family took on her quest for answers, with the family’s legal team issuing High Court proceedings against the University of Wolverhampton, which succeeded the former polytechnic. Judith worked in the Art and Design School between 1975 and 1999. A judge agreed to enter judgment against the university, meaning it was liable for Judith’s exposure and death.
The court ordered that the university make an interim payment of damages to Judith’s family. However, the family is still waiting for the payment and legal discussions are continuing to secure them the funds.
Judith’s family are now marking Action Mesothelioma Day on 1 July, to warn of the dangers of asbestos and reveal their ‘pain’ over the loss of their Nan.
Expert Opinion“It’s nearly two years since Judith first instructed me to investigate her case and it was cruel that she didn’t live to see the successful conclusion she had set her heart on.
“Judith’s family remain understandably devastated by her death which is yet another tragic reminder of the terrible legacy asbestos has created. While many people may associate the use of asbestos with heavy industry its use was widespread and the material is still present in many public buildings including schools, colleges and universities as well as hospitals.
“Action Mesothelioma Day is an opportunity to make others aware of the dangers still posed by asbestos and Judith’s family hope that in speaking, they can get this message to others.
“Judith’s family are disappointed at the university’s stance throughout and that rather than admitting liability the case had to be taken to the High Court for them to get the justice Judith deserved.
“We continue to support the family at this distressing time and call on the university to work with us to resolve the case, allowing Judith’s family to try and move on from what’s happened the best they can.” Emma Guy - Chartered Legal Executive
Judith married her husband Duncan in 1953 and the couple remained together until Duncan died in the late 1990s. The couple had two daughters, Julie and Wendy, and two grandchildren, Richard, 28 and Rebecca, 29.
Judith went to work at Wolverhampton Polytechnic in the mid-1970s. Employed as a photography technician, Judith was involved in handling and developing photographs the students had taken.
In 1985, Judith read an article in the local paper about the Polytechnic building she had worked in being closed due to the discovery of asbestos. Judith was concerned enough at the news that she kept the article, but never imagined at the time it would come to mean anything more.
The article revealed that the Polytechnic arts block was closed, after a survey revealed that nine-tenths of the building contained brown asbestos, discovered after a ceiling collapse.
Judith, moved to Hughenden Garden Village, in High Wycombe, Buckinghamshire, to live closer to her family. She first started to feel unwell in March 2020, when she began feeling weak and short of breath. She was diagnosed with mesothelioma in July 2020, and died in June 2021 with her family by her side.
Speaking about her grandmother, Rebecca Jacques said “Before she became unwell, Nan was really active and she was involved with the Hughenden Garden Village Residents’ Association where she lived, and oversaw producing the local newsletter for the residents.
“She enjoyed playing bingo, meeting at the cafe with her friends and she had enrolled onto an evening dance club which she would go to in Gerard's Cross, as she loved dancing back in the West Midlands. She also worked in the library as a volunteer, making sure books were sent back, or picked up. She spoke about her job at the Polytechnic and before she was unwell, she reflected fondly about her time there.
“Nan was so loved by so many people and her loss remains difficult to accept. There’s not a day that goes by that we don’t think of her, of how much she enjoyed helping others and her great sense of fun. There’s a real sense of pride in what she did but also a hole in our lives now she is no longer with us.
“To lose our Nan to this awful disease is a tragedy. Our upset at the university’s failure to comply by making the payment ordered by the court adds to the pain and insult that we as a family have gone through.
“Hopefully by speaking out we can make more people aware of the dangers of asbestos and at the same time, see these issues resolved and allow our Nan to finally rest in peace.”
Held every year, Action Mesothelioma Day brings together victims of the disease, those who have loved ones affected, healthcare professionals, support groups and those working to understand mesothelioma and find a cure. The day aims to ensure the public are also aware of the terrible impact mesothelioma can have on sufferers and their carers.