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Widow Gains Justice Over Loyal Schoolteacher’s Asbestos Exposure

Legal Experts Secure Settlement Over Man’s Death From Mesothelioma


The widow of a teacher who died from mesothelioma after being exposed to asbestos during 26 years of work at an Eastbourne school has spoken of her relief after securing justice from the local council over his illness.

Clive Beck, who was Head of History at Ratton School between 1972 and 1998, died aged 71 in April 2009, around 18 months after he was diagnosed with the incurable cancer of the lining of the lung.

His widow Sue, 70, turned to legal experts at Irwin Mitchell for help in launching a legal bid against East Sussex County Council over concerns that more could and should have been done to protect Mr Beck from inhaling asbestos fibres at the school during his career.

The national law firm’s specialist asbestos-related disease team has now helped Mrs Beck and her family receive an out-of-court settlement over the failures which led her husband to be exposed to the deadly material. Together, Mrs Beck and Irwin Mitchell are reiterating demands for more to be done to rid public buildings of dangerous asbestos.

Sarah Wolf, the legal expert at Irwin Mitchell’s London office who represented Mrs Beck in her search for answers, said: “Despite asbestos being so commonly associated with industrial environments, this tragic case is one of a growing number we are seeing in relation to the presence of asbestos in public buildings such as offices, hospitals and schools.

“Perhaps the most tragic aspect of Clive’s story is that he was exposed to asbestos while doing a job he loved at a school where he worked tirelessly for more than a quarter of a decade.”

Sue Beck said: “Losing Clive to mesothelioma was devastating and my family and I have been determined to get the answers we feel we deserve over his death. To see the impact that the illness had on him was unbearable and it is difficult to take when nowadays the risks of being exposed to asbestos are so well known.

“It has been a difficult few years but we are relieved this legal battle is now over. Nothing will ever bring Clive back but we felt it was important to get justice over everything he has faced.”

One of the central issues in the case related to whether the shelves in a cupboard which Mr Beck regularly used to store books and equipment were made from asbestos material. Former colleagues were able to describe them and stated they were removed during an asbestos removal project at the school in the 1980s.

Sarah Wolf continues: “If any comfort can be gained from this terrible case, it is that Sue and her family have been able to gain some financial security following the death of their loved  – which is only fair when he was exposed to a deadly material while simply doing his job.

“The danger of asbestos in schools also remains very much a live topic in the public domain and we were pleased when it was the subject of an Education Select Committee hearing earlier this year.

“It is understood that asbestos is present in 75 per cent of the country’s schools and we have long called for comprehensive action to be taken to improve the management and inspection process in relation to the material and ensure its removal where necessary. The risks of exposure are simply too great to be ignored.”

Our expert mesothelioma solicitors will provide you with free initial advice on your compensation claim if you or a loved on has been diagnosed with mesothelioma caused by asbestos exposure. See our Asbestos-Related Disease Claims Guide for more information.