Thompsons Solicitors in Scotland has recently helped a client claim £3.5 million in compensation for the life-changing lung conditions he developed after working in an unsafe working environment. The settlement is one of the largest ever sums awarded to a worker diagnosed with the conditions.
This case study relates to his case.
In the 1980s, Mr Gordon Walters, a stone mason, worked on the maintenance and renovation of Elgin Cathedral in Moray. His role meant he was regularly exposed to large quantities of harmful dust. However, his employer at the time, the Scottish Development Department of the Scotland Office, did not provide him with the correct protective equipment. He was not given a mask when he was on the site even though the health and safety regulations required workers to wear one.
He would later work on other projects for other employers who provided him with the correct safety equipment.
In the 1990s, Mr Walters was forced to give up his career because he developed a very serious autoimmune condition: systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE). He then developed Silicosis, a respiratory disease that causes the swelling and scarring of lung tissue. His Silicosis and his SLE were due to his inhaling large amounts of stone dust while working at Elgin Cathedral.
Both conditions have had a devastating impact on Mt Walters’ life. He now uses a wheelchair and requires full-time care.
Mr Walters described living with Silicosis and SLE as “absolute hell”. He said: “It has ravaged my body and means I have to be supported and cared for in almost every aspect of my daily life.”
Mr Walters approached his trade union, the PCS, who referred him to Thompsons Solicitors.
We intimated an industrial disease compensation claim against Historic Scotland (the successor to the Scottish Development Department of the Scotland Office and therefore the organisation liable in this case) on his behalf. We instructed a respiratory consultant to examine Mr Walters to confirm that his two conditions were the result of his dust exposure at Elgin Cathedral.
Because of the extent of the impact on Mr Walters’ life, and considering the ongoing care he would require, we fought for a substantial sum from the defenders. We were able to reach a settlement of £3.5 million – one of the largest ever settlements for a worker diagnosed with silicosis and SLE – in December 2022.
Commenting on his personal injury compensation, Mr Walters said: “The damages I have received will make it possible for all the proper care I need to be put in place but if only Historic Scotland has abided by accepted safety standards my life would have been entirely different.”
Thompsons Partner Claire Campbell of our Industrial Disease team represented Mr Walters. She said: "What this disease has done to Mr Walters is truly appalling. Silicosis and SLE are extremely cruel conditions but can be prevented by making sure people working with stone are properly protected.” She added that Historic Scotland “had completely failed in their duty of care” to Mr Walters and the £3.5 million settlement reflected the “sheer scale of that failure.”
We will continue to pursue compensation for those whose lives have been affected by the negligence of an employer.