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Widow Of Asbestos Victim Secures Settlement From Cumbrian Firm

Expert Lawyers Help Secure Justice For Factory Worker Exposed To Asbestos In 1970s


By Suzanne Rutter

Specialist industrial disease lawyers representing a grieving widow whose husband died following asbestos exposure at work said ‘justice had been done’ today after securing a six-figure settlement from his ex-employers the day before the case was due in court.

Peter Wilson was just 55-year-old in 2005 when he first started to suffer from the symptoms of mesothelioma and battled the condition for more than six years before he died on August 31, 2011 just months after the fatal diagnosis. He left behind his devastated wife of 20-years, Marian.

Peter, a machine shop manager at Oxley Developments Company Ltd in Ulverston in the 1970s, helped build and maintain machinery insulated with asbestos rope and he cut lengths of the rope  using a band saw.

In 2006 the couple turned to law firm Irwin Mitchell for help in their battle for answers and an investigation into whether more could have been done to protect him at the Priory Park factory in Cumbria was launched on their behalf.

Today expert industrial disease and asbestos lawyer Roger Maddocks, from Irwin Mitchell, confirmed that Marian has now received a six-figure out-of-court settlement – negotiated just a day before the case was scheduled to be heard in court. He said the funds would give her peace of mind and the future financial security that Peter would have provided had he not suffered from the illness.

Roger said: “This has been an extremely difficult time for Marian who has fought determinedly and tirelessly to get justice for her husband.

“During the course of his employment at Oxley Developments Company Ltd, Peter was exposed to asbestos as he built and maintained the machinery and, sadly, he paid the ultimate price.”
Peter first started to show the symptoms of mesothelioma in 2005 when he lost a lot of weight. Further hospital tests and scans in 2006 confirmed he was suffering from mesothelioma and a year later he was admitted to hospital for fluid to be drained from his lungs.

Initially he was advised that his condition might be asbestos related, but was then told by the specialists treating him that his condition was not malignant or related to his exposure to asbestos dust.

As his condition developed expert medical evidence confirmed that he was now suffering from malignant mesothelioma caused by his exposure to asbestos dust.

On 26 July 2011 Irwin Mitchell began High Court proceedings against Oxley Developments on Peter’s behalf but he died just weeks later in August 2011 and his widow Marian continued the court battle on his behalf.

Both Irwin Mitchell and Marian were critical of how the case was handled by the defendants and said it highlighted how complicated mesothelioma cases can be, despite the government consulting on how to force the cases through a simple online portal. Roger said that the defendants had:

• Initially denied that they had been negligent in causing him to be exposed to asbestos dust - even though at the time risks had been known to employers for years;

• Denied that his illness and death was due to exposure to asbestos dust despite medical evidence proving otherwise;

• Claimed that he was too late in bringing a claim due to legal time limits, even though he had relied upon advice from the doctors treating him who had told him previously that his condition was not asbestos related before it later developed.

Roger said: “We were forced to issue proceedings in a bid to get justice for our client, but just a day before we were scheduled to go to court – and five months after a judge found them to be responsible - Oxley Developments finally started negotiating a settlement, offering a six-figure sum.

“Sadly, because of delays in his full diagnosis and the conduct of the defendants in refusing to take responsibility and then delaying their negotiations in terms of settlement, Peter died never knowing that justice had been done.

“At least his loved ones now have financial security following his tragic death. It’s only right that those people affected by exposure to asbestos through no fault of their own, or their families, are entitled to justice from their former employers.”

Marian, 66, of Ulverston in Cumbria, says she is ‘hugely relived’ to have won her battle for justice in her husband’s name.

She said: “The past few years have been absolutely devastating, seeing Peter’s health taken away by the mesothelioma. By the time he died two years ago he was incredibly ill, he had trouble breathing and he lost a lot of weight.

“No amount of money will ever replace what I have lost, and since his death I have been determined to honour his name and get him the justice he deserves so I am hugely relieved his former employers have finally settled the case so I can start to move on with my life.

“However, the way the company’s insurers dealt with the claim has been appalling. They delayed making any firm proposal until the day before the case was due to go to court in London.”

Roger added: “At the present time the government is consulting on making changes to the court process by which victims of asbestos disease obtain justice. In doing so they have suggested that mesothelioma cases are straightforward, rarely disputed and that the insurers invariably settle them without delay.

“This case is a timely reminder and demonstrates starkly that this is not the case. Many people do not live to see justice because their cases are being fought to the very end. The government must re-think its proposals in order to ensure that victims of asbestos are given a fair route to justice.”

Read more about Irwin Mitchell’s expertise related to Mesothelioma Compensation Claims.