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85 year old man wins substantial award after years of exposure to Asbestos

Asbestos lung cancer case


An 85 year old Southampton man has accepted a substantial award from his previous employers after he contracted Lung Cancer after being exposed to asbestos for the whole of his working life. He was awarded the out of court settlement after taking his case against his employers Vosper Thorneycroft to the High Court in London, represented by industrial diseases experts Irwin Mitchell Solicitors.

The man who wishes to just be called John left school in 1934 and went immediately to work with John I Thorneycroft, as the firm was then called, at the Woolston Shipyard in Southampton. He worked in the boiler shop as part of the Engineering division, and practically straight away he was exposed to deadly asbestos dust as it was part of the materials used extensively throughout the shipyards at that time.

Describing his work on marine boilers, John said: "These boilers were lagged on the outside with a paste that was formed by mixing powdered asbestos and water. It was my job to tip the asbestos powder into drums of water to mix up the paste. I remember the dust from this would fly up in my face and get in my hair as well as all over my clothes."

He met his wife Eileen (83) at the shipyards during the war and they have been married 59 years. Eileen worked alongside her future husband in the boiler shop where she worked as an overhead crane driver; she continued to operate this 10 ton machine until the end of the war, they married in 1947.

John found out that he had lung cancer following a chest X-ray after an accident in his car. He was diagnosed with lung cancer in October 2003. Following diagnosis he had a series of tests to find out whether he had any signs of other asbestos related illness such as pleural thickening or asbestosis. Despite the fact no other asbestos related disease could be found the doctor was still able to confirm that the high levels of exposure to asbestos had caused the cancer.

Asbestos lung cancer lawyer comments

Caroline Pinfold from Irwin Mitchell Solicitors who represented John said "We can have no idea how many lung cancer deaths have been caused by asbestos. In most cases where cancer sufferers are looking to claim damages from negligent employers, having lung cancer without other asbestos related diseases is often not enough to find against the defendant company. However in this case we were able to show that the high levels of asbestos that John was exposed to made it pretty much beyond doubt that this awful material was responsible for his illness."

Ms Pinfold who works in the firm's London office continued "We are starting to see more employers accepting the negligence of old working practices, and accepting incidents of lung cancer arising directly from asbestos exposure. We expect to see even more asbestos diseases manifesting over the coming years as more and more people develop symptoms from exposure to asbestos, which can take up to 40 years to manifest."

His son, also called John said "My father and mother both worked throughout the second world war. Thornycroft built warships and armaments in the defence of our nation. The shipyard produced a warship a month, at the height of the war. Southampton was continually bombed, often night after night. The German bombers would off load surplus bombs on their return from raids elsewhere. When the adjacent Spitfire factory was bombed on the banks of the River Itchen, it was Thornycroft shipbuilders who took the hits also, with a number of casualties."

He continued "Never have civilian factory workers been exposed to so much front-line warfare. These people never received medals because they served their country from the stance of the private sector. Nevertheless their contribution was immense. Wars are fought with courage, bravery and technology. My parents worked in an industry that led the world in shipbuilding skills, and several of their colleagues paid the ultimate price. My father survived the bombing raids, and is now paying for his contribution to the war effort with lung cancer."

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