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Family Seeks Justice after Asbestos Inquest Verdict

Long-Term Partner Welcomes Investigation


The partner of a Newcastle man who died just three months after being diagnosed with Mesothelioma has welcomed the investigation into her partner’s devastating death following an inquest today.

James Bernard Johnston died on 27th September 2010, aged 64 – he had only been diagnosed with the asbestos-related lung disease Mesothelioma in June 2010. It is believed that he was regularly exposed to asbestos dust whilst working at Vickers Limited Shipbuilding Group from 1961 to 1968.

A coroner at an inquest today (9th February 2011) recorded a verdict of Industrial Disease – accepting that the cause of Mr Johnston’s death was Mesothelioma caused by exposure to asbestos dust at work. He accepted evidence that Mr Johnston had been exposed to substantial amounts of asbestos dust during his apprenticeship, and later as a joiner, with Vickers.

Roger Maddocks, partner and industrial disease specialist at Irwin Mitchell, represented the family of Mr Johnston, including his long-term partner Karen Dance, at the inquest.

During his employment at Vickers Limited Shipbuilding Group’s Walker Naval Yard Mr Johnston would often work in close proximity to asbestos sheets as they were cut to size or drilled and as asbestos-based lagging paste was mixed – all of which would release its dust into the workshop’s atmosphere. 

Mr Maddocks said: “For several years Mr Johnston was regularly exposed to deadly asbestos dust and fibres as a result of, not only, his work but of that of the people working around him as well.

“Towards the end of Mr Johnston’s employment at Vickers, his employer did start to provide face masks but this was too little too late and the masks were considered to be relatively ineffective by the workforce – they would become clogged up with asbestos dust.

“Although continued contact with asbestos increases the likelihood of developing Mesothelioma, our cases often highlight that, on occasion, minimal exposure can have just as devastating consequences as long-term exposure – so for many workers like Mr Johnston the damage may already have been done before the protective masks were made available.”

Karen Dance added: “We were all devastated when James received his diagnosis. He tried to remain positive throughout his illness but was distraught that his life was being so cruelly cut short as a result of a job which he did over 40 years ago.

“I’m relieved that the inquest is now over but there are still questions surrounding James’ death that need to be answered.”

Following today’s verdict Mr Johnston’s family have turned to Irwin Mitchell to help in their battle for justice. Mr Maddocks added: “Prior to his death Mr Johnston fought to see justice from Vickers Limited Shipbuilding Group, for the unnecessary pain inflicted by his former employer and now his family are continuing a legal battle in his memory.

“We are currently conducting further investigations and require help piecing together details surrounding the working conditions at Vickers Limited Shipbuilding Group during the 1960s.”

Anyone who worked for Vickers Limited Shipbuilding Group from 1961 to 1968 should contact Roger Maddocks at Irwin Mitchell on 0191 279 0095 to help Mr Johnston’s family achieve justice.