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Heartbroken Widow Of Former Joiner Seeks Justice After Asbestos-Related Death

Specialist Industrial Disease Lawyers Have Issued Court Proceedings


Specialist workplace illness lawyers have issued legal proceedings against Durham County Council and a local building firm in a bid to secure the widow of a former joiner who died from an asbestos-related cancer justice for his death.

Anthony Westgarth, known to his family and friends as Tony, died aged 69 on 24 October 2011 just days after being diagnosed with mesothelioma, a very aggressive cancer of the lung lining, which was caused by exposure to deadly asbestos dust and fibres.

Before his death, the father-of-one from Leadgate in Consett, County Durham, told his wife, Ann, that he believed he was exposed to asbestos while working as a joiner for Consett Urban District Council, which has since become Durham County Council, between 1968 and 1969, and John Roxby Surtees Limited, where he worked from 1971 to 1973.

Devastated by her loss, Ann, instructed specialist industrial disease lawyers at Irwin Mitchell to find out whether more could have been done by his former employers to protect her husband from exposure to the deadly substance during his employment.

The firm has now launched legal proceedings against Durham County Council, which has admitted a breach of duty, and John Roxby Surtees Limited, which is no longer trading, in a bid to secure justice for Tony. 

Tony was responsible for removing and making replacement asbestos soffits for houses in the Consett area during his time working for the local council. He would regularly cut asbestos boards with hand saws and fix them to houses using nails.

While working for John Roxby Surtees Limited he was involved in the refurbishment of old, prefabricated buildings at a number of sites in the region, including an ordnance factory at Birtley. He also worked on projects at the National Insurance Office at Longbenton, Newcastle upon Tyne and the RAF base at Ouston, County Durham.

Isobel Lovett, a specialist industrial disease lawyer at Irwin Mitchell’s Newcastle office, said: 

Tony first started feeling ill in early 2011 and was prescribed medication to control his blood sugar levels. He then lost his appetite and revisited his GP after losing four stone. In September 2011 Anthony and his family were told he had fluid on his lungs and pleural thickening related to mesothelioma.

In October 2011 he underwent surgery to remove fluid from his lungs at the Freeman Hospital in Newcastle, however he later collapsed and was taken into intensive care. The next day he was taken back to the ward where he died of a heart attack related to his mesothelioma and the pressure it was putting on his lungs.

His wife Ann, age 68, said: “My son and I have really struggled to come to terms with the loss of Tony. His deterioration in such a short space of time came as a shock to us and we feel completely lost without him.

“He told me a lot about his joinery work and that he spent a lot of time in dusty environments. He said he remembered asbestos was widely used and he worked with asbestos board directly, cutting them with a handsaw. 

“We hope that with help from our legal team at Irwin Mitchell we will finally gain justice for Tony so we can honour his memory after losing him so quickly and in such a terrible way.”


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