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The effects of breathing in asbestos can be insidious and can take decades to develop – but that should in no way discourage victims from taking legal action. As an example of what can be achieved, the widow of a businessman who died of cancer more than 50 years after he was exposed to the substance has won a six-figure sum in damages.
The man was aged 15 and had just left school when he worked in a British Rail boiler shop between 1959 and 1960. In later years, he established himself as a serial entrepreneur and achieved great business success. He was 67 when he began to develop chest pains. He died aged 70, in 2014, from mesothelioma, an incurable cancer of the lining of the lungs that is almost invariably linked to asbestos.
His widow launched proceedings against the Department for Transport (DfT), in its capacity as successor to the liabilities of the defunct British Railways Board. The DfT admitted that her husband had been exposed to asbestos in the boiler shop and that it was liable to compensate her. However, it disputed the value of her claim.
The High Court awarded £92,500 to the man's estate as compensation for the pain, suffering and loss of amenity that he endured before his death. His widow, as his dependant, is to receive substantial sums to compensate her for her bereavement and loss. The exact amount of the award has yet to be calculated, but is expected to be in excess of £250,000.