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Successful lung cancer settlement despite failure to meet Helsinki criteria

Posted on 26 June 2024

Louisa Saville represented Mr G, who was diagnosed with asbestos-related lung cancer. Sadly, the cancer had spread to his throat, making speech difficult. Mr G was a widower and lived alone in Scotland.  

He instructed Louisa during the COVID-19 pandemic so a face-to-face meeting was not possible. Instead, Louisa obtained his witness evidence over the course of a number of video calls.   

Louisa obtained evidence that Mr G had worked at Swan Hunter & Wigham Richardson Limited between 1966 and 1971 as a labourer. He worked on board ships that were being constructed in the vicinity of laggers who were mixing, applying and cutting asbestos lagging materials. He worked alongside these men up to six days a week and swept up the asbestos dust and debris they created at the end of each shift. He was not provided with any protective breathing equipment or given any other safety precautions to use during the course of his work.  

Steps were taken to progress the claim as soon as possible given Mr G’s poor health. An admission of liability was made by his employer’s insurers at an early stage, but sadly Mr G passed away later the same day. 

After his death, the claim was continued on behalf of his estate by Mr G’s son. A post-mortem was carried out but did not identify the required number of asbestos bodies within the lung tissue samples to satisfy the causation test for asbestos related lung cancer (‘the Helsinki criteria’). 

These results were at odds with Mr G’s lifetime account of heavy occupational asbestos exposure and so an expert pathologist was instructed to review the lung tissue samples via an electron microscopic fibre count. At the same time, a consultant engineer was instructed to provide an asbestos dose estimate.  

The pathologist’s findings were similar to those of the post-mortem and so were unsupportive for the causation of asbestos related lung cancer.  

The engineering evidence, by contrast, was positive. The engineer’s opinion was that Mr G had asbestos exposure in excess of 225f/ml, almost an order of magnitude greater than the Helsinki criteria. The expert’s opinion was crucial in this case.  

Despite the negative evidence, Louisa continued to pursue the claim and presented the postmortem and engineer’s opinion to the employer’s insurers and succeeded in negotiating a successful settlement. 

Louisa Saville


Louisa Saville is a partner in the asbestos team.

Asbestos and mesothelioma Industrial disease