Thompsons asbestos claim solicitors have worked on some of the highest profile asbestos claims in Scotland. In July 2018 a groundbreaking judgement was made in the Court of Session when the court ruled that the family of a woman who died as a result of secondary exposure to asbestos should receive damages from their deceased father's former employer.
It was the first time that a secondary exposure case of this nature had been ruled upon in Scotland.
Secondary Asbestos Exposure Claim – Case Study
Mrs Adrienne Sweeney died in 2015 as a result of the asbestos disease mesothelioma. Mrs Sweeney had been exposed to asbestos routinely as she washed her husband's work overalls. Mr William Sweeney had worked as an engineer fitter at the boiler manufacturing plant, Babcock and Wilcox Ltd, in Renfrew between 1962 and 1971, and again from 1974 until 1992.
Before her death, Mrs Sweeney recalled how she had washed her husband's overalls by hand and she described them as being "covered in dust" and always "manky". She told her lawyer that before washing the clothes she would shake the garments out at the back door and she would turn out the pockets and the turn ups.
Eventually, Mr Sweeney had stopped bringing his overalls home for washing as the company undertook the cleaning of employer overalls.
In proving that the firm of Babcock and Wilcox was negligent in exposing Mrs Sweeney to asbestos, it was vital that Thompsons asbestos solicitors could prove to the court the conditions at the factory. Without Mr Sweeney's testimony (sadly, Mr Sweeney had already passed away) Thompsons relied on evidence given by his former colleagues and experts in the field.
Expert witness testimony stated to the court that "the deceased's exposure [to asbestos] up to 1971 materially increased the risk of her contracting mesothelioma". While another expert witness, a retired Consultant Physician, referred to other patients he had treated who had contracted mesothelioma following asbestos exposure caused by washing their husbands' work clothes. The court noted that "one of these cases had been connected to employment with [Babcock International]".
In considering the case, the court had to determine whether the exposure could have come from any other source, such as from Mrs Sweeney's own employment history in the motor trade. The court found that there was no evidence that she had been exposed in this line of work, and if she had it would have been far less likely to have resulted in her contracting mesothelioma due to the different types of asbestos used in the two workplaces.
The lawyers for the defender (Babcock International Ltd) stated that it had not been proved that Mr Sweeney worked with asbestos, nor that he had brought asbestos home on his work clothes.
The court decided in favour of the pursuers (Mrs Sweeney's daughter, Kay Gibson, and other members of the family) citing that the employer had a duty of care to Mrs Sweeney "by reason of their knowledge of a risk of secondary exposure affecting persons living with employees exposed to asbestos at work". The court was satisfied that Babcock and Wilcox negligently exposed Mrs Sweeney to asbestos and that this materially increased her risk of developing mesothelioma.
Damages of £247,000 were awarded to the family.
Thompsons in the press
The family's lawyer from Thompsons Solicitors in Scotland, Nicola Macara, commented that it was "regrettable" that the defender made the family undergo a full court process, but the claim was helped by the "credible and reliable" evidence presented to the court.
Nicola added that this landmark case should be seen as a very positive outcome, not only for Mrs Sweeney's family but for "all Scots fighting to ensure that justice is done for sufferers of asbestos related disease".
Talk to Thompsons about asbestos illness claims
If you or a family member has received an asbestos illness diagnosis which can be attributed to asbestos exposure during employment or as secondary exposure through contact with someone else, Thompsons can help you make a claim.
Our asbestos claim solicitors are committed to ensuring you and your love ones receive the justice they deserve. To read more about how we can help you as a relative of someone who has contracted an asbestos related disease, please read our page: Information for Families.