One of our service users, who believes he was exposed to asbestos for just two weeks in Devon in the mid-1960s, has secured compensation thanks to a forensic investigation to trace the company he believed was responsible.
Brian was cutting up and nailing asbestos sheets
Brian Lovell was diagnosed with mesothelioma more than 50 years after he was employed by E.B.C. & Sleeman Limited to refurbish the Dorothy Perkins store in Exeter High Street. His work there included cutting up and nailing asbestos sheets, which generated dense clouds of asbestos dust. The dust covered his hair, face and hands.
He says, ‘It was impossible to avoid breathing it in. I ate my lunch and took breaks where I worked. I was under such pressure to finish the job quickly that on at least two occasions I slept overnight on the shop floor in the contaminated atmosphere.’
Asbestos Support Central England encouraged Brian to instruct an expert solicitor
Following Brian’s mesothelioma diagnosis he turned for advice to Asbestos Support Central England where our advisers Neil and Caroline encouraged him to approach one of the solicitors from our panel of experts in asbestos law.
As far as Brian could recall, the company name was Exeter Building Contractors but he had never gone to the company’s premises. The solicitor he chose obtained a copy of his employment history from the Inland Revenue, which incorrectly named the company as EBC & Sloeman Limited.
How his solicitor found the company
After considerable research she traced the company, which had changed its name several times. The final change was to the number 00358466 Plc which made it extremely difficult to find. She wrote several hundreds of letters to insurers and previous officers and employees mentioned in the company searches. Eventually an employer’s liability insurer was identified and a legal claim was issued for the alleged exposure to asbestos.
The company’s defence
Lawyers acting on behalf of E.B.C. & Sleeman fought the case very hard, arguing that Brian was out of time for pursuing a case because he had previous lung problems. They denied that the company had employed Brian. They said that, at the time, an employer would not have known there was a link between exposure to asbestos and mesothelioma. They added that because their client was a small company the directors could not have been expected to know about the dangers of asbestos.
Brian’s wife says his solicitor was patient, kind and caring but relentless in the pursuit of justice
After the matter was set down for a trial, the insurers for E.B.C. & Sleeman agreed to pay substantial compensation, although they did not admit liability. Brian’s wife Fel said, ‘We cannot praise Brian’s legal team enough for their help. They needed much patience and gave us lots of reassurance! The solicitor was totally understanding, relentless in her pursuit of justice, and extremely easy to talk to. She led us through what could have been a harrowing experience with care and kindness. She is simply the best!’
Without our help Brian might never have received any compensation at all!
Brian’s solicitor said, ‘Even though Brian was exposed to asbestos for a very short time, he should not have been exposed to it at all. To add to the harm already done to Brian, his ex-employer attempted to discredit his evidence and their insurers persisted in claiming he had sued the wrong company. From my experience former employers fight these cases tooth and nail. In addition, they change their company names in an attempt to make it difficult to be traced. The details of an employer’s liability insurers should be public.
She said, ‘Brian was and continues to be supported by Asbestos Support Central England. I cannot praise the work of this support group enough. If it wasn’t for their work, men and women like Brian would not be in a position to make any legal claim at all.’
Fel said, ‘Without the help and advice of Asbestos Support Central England we would not have known that compensation was available! Neil and his colleagues are doing a fantastic and very worthwhile job by making people aware that there is help out there, when initially it seems so limited.’
You can read a more detailed version of Brian’s story story here.