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Former marine engineer at Chatham Docks obtains compensation for mesothelioma diagnosis

The man, who we refer to as David, started a five year apprenticeship at the age of 16 at Chatham Docks in 1953. He continued to be employed in the docks until 1984.

Posted on 12 March 2021

David worked onboard naval ships and submarines as they underwent refits and repairs. To access pipes, he regularly removed asbestos lagging by hand and worked alongside laggers and other engineers as they also stripped asbestos lagging from pipework. The waste asbestos lagging was left on the floor until it was cleared up and, never having been warned of the dangers of asbestos, David and his colleagues threw large chunks of the powdery asbestos debris at one another.

When David and his fellow engineers had completed their work, the asbestos lagging was reapplied. David worked alongside laggers while asbestos was mixed with water in buckets and the resultant asbestos paste trowelled onto the newly repaired pipework. This work generated vast quantities of asbestos dust that filled the air of the cramped engine rooms in which David worked.

In late 2019 David developed a suspected DVT in his leg. Following a hospital admission, and a series of investigations, mesothelioma was diagnosed (mesothelioma can increase the risk of thrombosis).

Sadly, David suffers with dementia. Expert evidence was obtained at an early stage which confirmed that, although David’s short term memory is impaired, his long term memory remains intact. Importantly, this avoided doubt being cast on the credibility of David’s evidence of asbestos exposure at the Docks.

Expert care evidence was also obtained early on. This evidence highlighted the additional care and assistance David would require as a mesothelioma patient who is also suffering with dementia and supported the inclusion of the costs of professional care in his settlement.

As David is not able to manage his own finances, Court of Protection specialists were instructed to apply for the appointment of his daughter as deputy. This process can take up to six months, but given David’s terminal diagnosis, the application was submitted urgently, and the appointment was granted in around three months.

In the meantime, Leigh Day secured an interim payment so that funds were available for professional care, as and when the need arose.

Following negotiations, settlement terms were agreed for a significant lump sum settlement.

Catriona Ratcliffe, asbestos solicitor in the industrial injuries team at Leigh Day, said:

“The importance of this settlement for David cannot be over emphasised. It allows him to access professional services for the additional care and support he needs as a result of his condition. Although I’m sure his family will continue supplementing that care, it will allow them to spend time with David as his family, rather than as his carers.”

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Catriona Ratcliffe
Asbestos and mesothelioma Road traffic collisions

Catriona Ratcliffe

Solicitor in the personal injury departments specialising in industrial disease claims

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Asbestos and industrial diseases

Thousands of people are diagnosed with asbestos-related diseases annually. There are currently more than 5,000 deaths from asbestos-related diseases in the UK per year, including from mesothelioma, lung cancer and asbestosis