The dangers of asbestos were first identified in the 1930s but people are even now dying as a result of workplace exposure to the carcinogenic substance as asbestos-related diseases often take decades to manifest clinical symptoms. However, as a recent case in which a widow was awarded a six-figure sum showed, a compensation settlement is still possible many years after the exposure.
The woman's husband had worked as a carpet fitter in the 1970s and 1980s. He was exposed to asbestos whilst reducing the size of doors that were insulated with the substance and whilst removing vinyl flooring that contained asbestos fibres. In 2015 he began coughing badly and initially thought he had flu. However, he was suffering from mesothelioma – a cancer of the lining of the lungs invariably associated with exposure to asbestos – and died the following year, at the age of 61.
After his death, the man's widow launched proceedings against the company that had inherited the legal liabilities of her husband's employer during the period of exposure. Judgment was swiftly entered against the company, without the need for a trial, but its lawyers disputed the value of the widow's claim.
Noting the intense pain the man had endured during his final illness, the High Court made an award of £90,000 in respect of his pain, suffering and loss of amenity. Further sums were awarded to cover the cost of his funeral and to compensate his widow for the care she had provided for him during his illness. The company was also ordered to pay damages in respect of his lost earnings, the value of services he would have provided to his family and the value of his wife's financial dependency on him.
The total amount of compensation payable to the widow has yet to be finalised, but is bound to run well into six figures.