Family’s Warning After Kent Man’s Former Employers Admit Liability Following Plumber’s Death From Asbestos Disease
A widow is warning of the dangers of asbestos following the death of her husband who was exposed to the material while working in former Woolworths stores.
Robin Griffiths, from Meopham, Gravesend, died after he was diagnosed with Pleural Plaques, a distinct form of localised thickening of the lung membrane, following asbestos exposure.
In England and Wales, usually compensation is not awarded for Pleural Plaques as the law says that they are symptomless, do not shorten life and have no effect on health at all, despite the worry felt by many that they could go on to develop more serious asbestos related disease. The law in Scotland remains that it is possible to bring pleural plaques claims.
As ever, in the appropriate circumstances, there may be exceptions and Robin’s case was one of those exceptions.
Following his diagnosis, Robin instructed expert asbestos-related disease lawyers at Irwin Mitchell to investigate his illness and whether it was linked to his work history.
Robin died aged 76 before he could see his case concluded, leaving his wife, Linda Griffiths, 73 at the time, to continue with her husband’s case in his memory.
Following his death a post-mortem was carried out which showed evidence of very extensive thick and heavily calcified pleural plaques. Expert medical evidence was relied upon which confirmed that the pleural plaques (there was no suggestion that the disease was anything other than plaques) caused him significant respiratory disability, affected his daily life, and had brought forward his death.
It was a strongly contested claim, but Irwin Mitchell have now secured a settlement from WH Glaze and FW Woolworth Plc – which is the successor company to Woolworths - in connection with his illness.
WH Glaze and FW Woolworth Plc jointly admitted liability for Robin’s illness just two weeks before the three day trial listed in the Royal Courts of Justice.
Following the settlement, Linda has spoken out on the terrible impact that the disease had on Robin and what his loss has meant to her and the family.
Expert Opinion“The past few years have proved so difficult for Linda and the family. Facing Robin’s diagnosis and death was hard enough and continuing Robin’s search for answers has been a long road.
“Given all that the family has been through, we’re pleased to have settled the case and hope this gives the answers they were looking for, together with the means to help rebuild their lives and look to the future.
“Asbestos exposure continues to claim lives every year and we see the very real human cost in so many cases and the families left to pick up the pieces of what can be a diagnosis as devastating as it can be unexpected.
“My client’s case does not set any legal precedent, but clearly demonstrates that with the right evidence, the right facts and support from a specialist lawyer, it may still be possible for sufferers of pleural plaques to bring a successful damages claim. My firm advice is that where there is a diagnosis of an asbestos disease, the situation should be monitored by medical specialists and expert legal advice sought as early as possible.
“No settlement can ever make up for the pain of losing Robin, but Linda hopes by speaking out, the family can raise awareness of the dangers asbestos still poses, the devastating effect it continues to have on lives and the need for employers to ensure the safety of workers at all times." Emma Guy - Chartered Legal Executive
On leaving school aged 15 in 1956, Robin went to work for WH Glaze Ltd.
Robin’s role involved assisting the plumbers and electricians in their work. Before his death he recalled being exposed to asbestos dust, as the teams would always be working on pipework covered in asbestos lagging. One of Robin’s jobs was to use a hacksaw to remove the lagging to allow the plumbers to do their job. Robin recalled the dust created being like a cloud. He worked for the firm for two years.
Robin began carrying out contract work in Woolworths stores from 1969. Robin was sent to stores across the country, removing old asbestos lagged pipework and installing new boilers and pipework in their place.
For many years until 2001, he covered South East England, looking after Woolworths’ 300 stores in the area carrying out maintenance and boiler repairs.
Linda and Robin met in 1961 and were married on 18 December 1965. Daughter Clare was born in 1969 and son Darren in 1970. Robin doted on his two grandchildren, now aged 19 and 22.
Robin enjoyed helping friends with plumbing and decorating work and continued to help until his disease forced him to stop. Robin also loved walking the family’s border collie’s Chester and Chelsea with family and friends and would walk several miles at a time, including meeting up with an old friend once a week for a long walk.
Robin’s other passion was his Jaguar car, which he polished regularly. It had been a lifelong wish to own a Jaguar and he loved maintaining and driving it. When not with his car or his dogs, Robin spent time in his ‘den’, where he could use the computer, watch TV and listen to music.
Robin began to feel unwell in 2014. A chest infection in August led his GP to send him for an X-ray and CT scan. The consultant gave Robin and Linda the diagnosis in November 2014, advising them to seek legal advice, which led the family to contact Irwin Mitchell for help and support.
Robin continued to live his life but his health started deteriorating in 2017. Robin’s health declined further, so much so that he ended up being bed bound and in May 2018 he was admitted to hospital with breathing difficulties. He died surrounded by his family.
Linda said: “Robin was a wonderful husband, father and grandfather and not a day has passed since his death that I don’t think about him.
“No one deserves to suffer in that way and this cruel disease took from Robin all the things he loved to do, like helping friends and family and walking the dogs.
“It has been so hard for all of us to move on. Even the dog Chester pined for him, refusing to leave Robin’s den in the house and died 10 days after his master’s funeral. Robin’s passing shattered all our lives and we’ve all had to try and pick ourselves up and continue without him.
“We knew what could happen and both Robin and I were scared about what the future might hold. The consultant had told us he might live a week, a month or a year and I walked out of that appointment in tears.
“Nothing can bring Robin back to us, but the settlement means we have secured the answers he wanted and has eased some of that awful fear and uncertainty following his death.
“I hope that by talking about Robin and our story that his death isn’t in vain. If we can help others in a similar situation or warn about the dangers of asbestos, we can perhaps spare other families from going through what we have and encourage those affected by this terrible disease to seek the help and support they deserve and will need to come through it.”