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Settlement Secured For Retired Teacher Suffering With Asbestos-Related Disease

Specialist Industrial Disease Lawyers Secure Funds Former Preston Teacher


A former teacher suffering from mesothelioma, a terminal cancer caused by exposure to asbestos decades ago, has urged the Government to do more to remove asbestos from schools after expert industrial disease lawyers at Irwin Mitchell secured her a six-figure settlement.

Penny Devaney, 65, who spent much of her career teaching at schools in and around Preston, Lancashire, was diagnosed with mesothelioma in July 2013 after suffering with shortness of breath and an unsought loss of weight over a few months.

The mother-of-two and grandmother-of-four taught at St Maria Gorretti’s Roman Catholic Primary, Ribbleton, St Benedict’s RC Primary School, in Walton-le-Dale, which merged with St Mary’s RC Primary School, and ended her career as Deputy Headteacher at St Mary’s RC Primary School in Leyland.

Together with her specialist asbestos lawyers at Irwin Mitchell, she is urging the Government to do more to protect teachers, pupils and support staff by being more proactive in removing asbestos from schools, rather than just continuing to manage the presence of the substance.

In March this year the Government published a report into how it plans to manage the presence of asbestos in schools – but lawyers at Irwin Mitchell say this isn’t enough and a full risk register of asbestos in schools needs to be produced alongside a proactive plan to remove the material depending on how dangerous the state of the asbestos is in each building.

During her employment at the schools, Penny, who now lives with her husband in Cheshire, was exposed to asbestos while construction was taking place. She regularly visited the buildings where construction and refurbishment was on-going and recalls not being provided with any protective equipment to limit her exposure to asbestos.

Irwin Mitchell secured an out-of-court settlement for Penny from Lancashire County Council, the local authority which controlled the schools she taught at between 1978 and 2004, although they did not admit liability.

Ian Toft, an expert asbestos lawyer at Irwin Mitchell, leading the case, said: 

Expert Opinion
“Penny was a teacher for almost 30 years and we believe she was exposed to asbestos when construction took place at the various schools she worked at in Lancashire.

“The fact that she is now suffering with mesothelioma as a result of the asbestos present in schools is a stark reminder of the damage the substance can cause. A recent Government report into asbestos in schools failed to take the steps we believe are required to tackle this issue once and for all.

“Unfortunately, the Government’s report continues to place the emphasis firmly on management and control of asbestos, rather than its removals from our schools. We are already witnessing a rise in the number of teachers and pupils exposed to the material decades ago and a failure to act now could result in more individuals suffering the way Penny has in future.

“Penny, like many other teachers, was not warned of the dangers of asbestos, despite the risks of exposure being known for decades. We have continually called for a full risk register documenting the presence of asbestos in public buildings including schools, which will ensure people are warned of the risks they are being exposed to.”
Ian Toft, Partner

Penny said: “I was absolutely devastated when I was diagnosed with mesothelioma, which was caused purely by going to work and doing my job. I never thought that I was being exposed to asbestos during my career and the diagnosis completely took me by surprise.

“In my opinion the recent Government report into asbestos in schools hasn’t gone far enough to tackle the issue. This material causes so much suffering and more needs to be done to remove it from public buildings, particularly schools where young people are potentially put at risk.

“I am delighted my legal team at Irwin Mitchell has secured a settlement from Lancashire County Council, but what I really want is for asbestos in schools to be taken more seriously, so other teachers and pupils don’t end up suffering, as I am, decades down the line.”

If you or a loved one has been affected by an asbestos related illness, our solicitors can help you to claim compensation. See our Asbestos Claims page for more information.

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