Earlier this year we posted an article explaining why solicitors offer clients stories to the press, to put this into perspective we wanted to share a recent case involving a former pupil who successfully sued Hackney Council for life changing damages as a result of contracting mesothelioma in a school music class room.

Edmund Young a principal lawyer who specialises in asbestos litigation reported the following case.

This is a very tragic case that involved an ex-pupil (Lisa Doughty) who had attended Haggerston secondary school in London for which the London Borough of Hackney was responsible during the years between 1980-1985 when she was aged 11-16.

Many years later she was tragically diagnosed with mesothelioma, a fatal lung cancer caused by exposure to asbestos. When I met with her she did not know how, if at all, she had been exposed to asbestos as she did not have any occupational history of exposure.

On a hunch that there may have been asbestos in her school given the probable age of the school and that it was within the Inner London Education Authority (ilea) we undertook some extensive research and investigation which resulted in obtaining an asbestos survey of the school. That survey showed that asbestos was found in the school premises and in particular in the music class rooms where the ceiling had been sprayed with asbestos (amosite) for acoustic purposes. Lisa and her classmates used to have music lessons twice weekly and also attended after school rehearsals in those classrooms.

Over time the asbestos degraded and holes appeared in the ceiling and clumps would come away falling upon the pupil’s desks below and on the hymn sheets. There were also heavy wooden doors to those classrooms which were often slammed shut causing dust to be dispersed around the classroom.

As a result of a BBC website appeal I was able to trace a number of Lisa’s former class mates who provided evidence that debris on the desks would often be flicked across as horse play and that dust would often settle on the hymn sheets and that the heavy wooden doors would frequently be slammed shut.

However, the witness evidence obtained was of low background exposure and in order to support the case I obtained an expert occupational hygienist report to demonstrate that the disturbance of dust in the atmosphere would have been sufficient to give rise to a breach of duty under the relevant regulations. Medical evidence obtained also confirmed that there was sufficient exposure to have materially contributed to the risk of Lisa contacting mesothelioma.

On the basis of such evidence, court proceedings were issued in the Royal Courts of Justice in London and after disclosure of such supportive evidence liability and causation was admitted. A 3-day trial had been listed for hearing from 1st October 2019.

Sadly, Lisa died before her claim was concluded aged 47 leaving 3 children and her husband who suffered from a number of medical conditions preventing him from working. Lisa was his main carer and there was a substantial claim for loss of services. Expert care evidence was obtained to support that aspect of the claim and to obtain a valuation of the cost of replacement services i.e. the cost of commercially providing a carer to replace the care that Lisa would have provided to her husband, who continued the claim as personal representative and after a Joint Settlement Meeting conducted shortly before trial and further lengthy negotiations, the claim settled for a very substantial amount of damages to reflect the claim for loss of services for the remainder of her husband’s life.