Because mesothelioma can take up to 30 years to manifest itself and be diagnosed, it goes without saying that many of those who instruct us to investigate a claim cannot be expected to remember every detail of their past employment, often going back years. Perhaps even more difficult is hoping a family can remember historic employment details of a husband or father they have since lost to mesothelioma.
Obviously, this information is vital for lawyers to be able to ascertain where exposure to asbestos took place and thereby claim against an employer or their insurer. Which is why, from time to time, the solicitor asbestos teams release a story to the press about a case we’re working on.
Clearly, it can be fairly distressing for a family to have to go over the details of the last months of losing someone to such a cruel disease or to have one’s current illness described in print and online, necessarily accompanied by family photos. But in many cases, it’s worth it because a picture or a story jogs the memory of a long-lost friend or colleague who reads the story in a local paper, contacts us and reveals important details about working conditions, which can ultimately result in the success of a claim.
More often than not, this long-lost ‘witness’ can confirm that the employer they had in common with our client failed to provide sufficient protection for employees, something that underpins many of our compensation claims, and fills in important gaps in the case.
One such success involved the family of an East End docker who sadly brought home asbestos dust from work years before. The man in question had died some years previously but a story in the local paper prompted his best friend to come forward with vital information about conditions on the docks that enabled us to settle the case.
One high-profile case was featured in the Telegraph and in several local papers, featuring a maintenance engineer in the Houses of Parliament during the 1970s and 1980s. Most days, he came into contact with pipes and boilers lagged with asbestos. Sadly, he died without knowing that he was suffering from mesothelioma, very likely caused by his long years of service.
The Telegraph was interested in the story for two reasons – one, because the client’s sons discovered that their father had kept detailed work diaries for 20 years of his time at the Houses of Parliament, some of which indicated his unease with the safety conditions and the way air quality was monitored. And secondly, because his fate forewarns that hundreds of other people working in the iconic building could also have been affected.
The story was particularly timely since MPs are about to vote whether to up sticks and exit en masse to other facilities while the Palace of Westminster and other buildings undergo essential repairs.
We did indeed receive a couple of useful responses to the story and other that was completely unrelated to the specific case, but was from the widow of a man who died in 2006 from work related mesothelioma. This woman had had her husband’s claim successfully settled and was contacting us to thank us for publishing the client’s story to keep informing the public about the ongoing dangers of asbestos.
The case in the Telegraph reached thousands of readers. Hundreds of other ordinary people working in ordinary buildings also die too soon from asbestos-related cancers, most of whom the public never hears about. That too is a story that needs constantly re-telling.