Westminster Council agrees to pay widow £225,000 after her husband’s death from mesothelioma
A widow whose husband died from mesothelioma has settled a claim against Westminster Council after evidence came to light which supported her case.
Posted on 27 January 2023
Although the council did not accept liability, they agreed to pay out £225,000 after a painstaking investigation by asbestos legal specialist, Leigh Day partner Vijay Ganapathy.
Mr M from Kent, instructed Leigh Day after he was diagnosed with mesothelioma. While the fatal disease is caused by asbestos exposure, M had no recollection of being exposed to it.
He had set up and run a successful business that offered specialist pipe freezing services to companies. The job required him to undertake inspections within various sites before this work started. He reported being very cautious about asbestos as he was well aware of its dangers. He therefore never entered any premises unless the owners confirmed it was safe.
As a result, M could not recall where he might have encountered asbestos. He suggested some possible sites, but Vijay’s team’s investigations did not uncover any evidence to show there was asbestos at those locations.
M’s health deteriorated, and he later died aged 73.
However, following M’s death a former work associate came forward who told the legal team about a job he and M had done for Westminster Council in around July 2005. The associate had been contracted by Westminster Council to work on pipes in a boiler house and he subcontracted M’s firm to organise the pipe freezing work.
Before the work was undertaken, Westminster Council instructed an external firm to undertake asbestos testing after which it was concluded the boiler house was safe.
M and the work associate then went into the boiler house to work. M carried out his own inspections while the contractor removed insulation from pipes, assuming they were free of asbestos. However, the insulation removal created a lot of dust while both men were in the building.
Long after the work was completed, there was a further survey of the boiler house which found that in fact it contained substantial quantities of asbestos.
M’s family pursued a legal case against Westminster Council, but the authority denied liability, saying the witness and M’s firms were independent contractors responsible for their own safety. They claimed they were able to rely on the asbestos testing they had organised which showed the site was safe.
The legal team argued that the regulations imposed a higher duty on Westminster Council which meant it could not simply rely on testing undertaken by an external company. They also argued that the testing was only performed on the pipes and did not take account of the general asbestos contamination in the boiler house.
Westminster Council agreed to settle the claim for £225,000.
M's widow said:
"My husband was a passionate advocate of Health and Safety in the workplace and we as a family were proud of his strength and dignity when facing the diagnosis. This insidious disease must be eradicated and safety measures must be addressed.
"People must be made aware of the dangers of Asbestos. My thanks to Leigh Day especially Vijay Ganapathy and Simon Kilvington the Barrister for their tireless work in bringing this case to a conclusion. Thank you !"
Vijay Ganapathy said:
“Many people mistakenly believe the dangers of asbestos exposure is a problem of the past. In this case, it was reported the exposure occurred in 2005 and surveys undertaken over a decade later showed the site was still contaminated with asbestos. This case confirms that despite the advancement in regulations and safety measures, many workers continue to be at risk.”
Vijay is a partner who specialises in industrial disease and complex injury cases.
Thousands of people are diagnosed with asbestos-related diseases annually, including mesothelioma, a cancer affecting the pleural lining of the lungs and almost exclusively caused by asbestos