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Compensation secured for former shipwright from South Shields following mesothelioma diagnosis

A former shipwright received a six-figure settlement from his former employer a month before his death from the asbestos-related cancer mesothelioma.

Posted on 13 May 2019

Brian Laydon, who died last year aged 84, started working as a shipwright for John Redhead & Sons Limited, based in South Shields, in 1950. Brian left John Redhead & Sons Limited in 1955 to work as an armament technician in the RAF, before returning to John Redhead & Sons Limited in 1957, where he stayed until the shipyard closed in 1985. 

In December 2017, Brian began to suffer with breathing problems. He saw a consultant and had a chest drain put in. After the drain was removed, he developed a bleed which had to be stopped by a surgeon. Brian was sent home but he returned to the hospital after suffering with internal bleeding. Subsequent biopsies led to Brian being diagnosed with mesothelioma on 26 January 2018. 

As a shipwright, Brian believed he was exposed to asbestos during the conversion of steam ships to oil and diesel ships throughout the 1950s, which involved large quantities of asbestos lagging being removed from the pipework. This process led to asbestos dust on the floor, which was then dry swept away.  

Brian also worked adjacent to the joiners who were cutting Marinite boards with circular saws and spraying limpet asbestos to bulkheads. Additionally, Brian was present when asbestos was mixed from powder to form a paste and applied as lagging by hand to pipework and boilers.

Although Brian thought that his heaviest exposure to the substance was during the 1950s, he believed that he was still exposed to asbestos in the 1970s and 1980s as Marinite boards were still being cut and asbestos lagging was still being removed. He was also present during the removal of gauzing on electrical cables and when sections of asbestos insulation were cut to insulate pipes.

Brian’s time working for John Redhead & Sons Limited is where he believed he was exposed to asbestos and led to his diagnosis of mesothelioma. Between 1950 and 1985 Brian did not remember being provided with any proper respiratory protection, or given any warnings about the dangers of working closely with asbestos. As a result, Brian brought a legal case against his former employee through law firm Leigh Day. John Redhead & Sons Limited admitted liability and Brian received a six-figure settlement from his former employee a month before his death.

Steven Dickens, asbestos claims solicitor from Leigh Day, said: 

“During the 1950s, ships were being converted from steam ships to oil and diesel ships which led to the disturbance and removal of asbestos. It was at this time that Brian believed that he came into contact with asbestos most frequently. He also believed this exposure continued during the 1970s until the shipyard closed in 1985. 

“We are pleased that John Redhead & Sons Limited admitted liability and that we were able to secure a settlement before Brian passed away from mesothelioma, which he knew would be used to support his family after he died.”