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Former Serviceman Wins Battle For Justice After MoD Admits Asbestos Exposure

Woman Developed Cancer Following Contact With Dust On Overalls


The ex-serviceman husband of a woman who died from an asbestos-related cancer after coming into contact with the deadly dust from her husband’s contaminated overalls has criticised the MoD for a ‘torturous’ battle for justice over 21 months.
Devoted wife Helene Todd, from Durranhill, Carlisle, died of malignant mesothelioma in August 2010, aged 66, just seven months after being informed she had contracted the disease.
Her devastated 68-year-old husband John, who says he is ‘totally lost’ without his wife who he ‘misses desperately’, turned to industrial illness specialists at law firm Irwin Mitchell, who helped him win his battle for justice in his wife’s name but say the firm is receiving an increasing number of enquiries from people who suffer from asbestos related diseases despite not working directly with the substance.
John served with the British Army in the Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers for 22 years, with much of his time spent in Germany. He was a Class 1 vehicle mechanic and Staff Sergeant, working on tanks and other vehicles where asbestos was widely used to provide heat protection or as a fire retardant.
While stationed in Germany between March 1968 and August 1979, John was joined by his wife and investigations by experts at Irwin Mitchell established that it was during this time that she was inadvertently exposed to the asbestos dust as she washed his contaminated work overalls.
Commenting on his family’s ordeal, John, said: “Although I am pleased that the MoD has admitted responsibility for both my wife‘s and my exposure to asbestos, I am disgusted that it was allowed to happen in the first place and that they have taken so long to hold their hands up to it, which has been utterly torturous for me. It was only after Irwin Mitchell commenced Court proceedings on my behalf that the MoD saw sense, admitted liability and stopped dragging it out.
“I still desperately miss Helene and I can’t help but feel guilty that she was exposed to the dust on my work clothes. I don’t know what to do with myself; I had so little time to adjust to losing her. Nothing can make up for the fact that she’s no longer in my life, and I would give anything to have her back.”
At an inquest in Carlisle in May 2011, the coroner recorded a verdict of Industrial Disease, and now the Ministry of Defence has not only admitted that Mr Todd was exposed to asbestos during his work, but also accepted that his wife was exposed to the dust while laundering his overalls, in turn admitting liability for the condition which caused her death.
Roger Maddocks, a Partner in the specialist Industrial Illness team at Irwin Mitchell, said: “We are seeing an increasing number of asbestos exposure cases from industries where traditionally there hasn’t been as great a perceived risk from asbestos, and where the victims themselves have not been exposed to the dust through their own work.
“We are glad that the MoD has conceded liability, but it should never have been in question. Although this settlement will never bring Helene back, it can at least provide some justice for John in what is a truly tragic case.”
He added: “It’s unacceptable that anyone should be left with a fatal illness because their health was not protected at work and in Helene’s case as her husband was not protected by his employers meaning she came to harm in her own home.
“We will continue fight for justice for each and every one of our clients who are the victims of this dreadful disease.”