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Justice for family of merchant seaman exposed to asbestos

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Case concludes on deceased merchant seaman

Merchant ship loading cargo exposing seaman to asbestosOur client first approached Shoosmiths in 2016, having been diagnosed with asbestosis, although he also suffered other co-morbidities which shortened his life expectancy. We began investigating his claim, but unfortunately shortly after we were instructed, he died due to non-asbestos related conditions.

The family continues the claim

The death of a claimant in asbestos-related cases (particularly those involving mesothelioma) before a claim concludes is not uncommon. It was important therefore to work closely with the family and the deceased’s ex-work colleagues to obtain sufficient witness information to explain the extent of his exposure to asbestos and his illness.

Kate Price-Marson, a solicitor specialising in asbestos related disease cases and other industrial illness and disease claims, examined our now deceased client’s medical records to determine the extent of his illness and the details of the original diagnosis. During her investigation of those records it became apparent that he had in fact been suffering with pleural thickening.

Pleural thickening is a debilitating disease

Pleural thickening can have a variety of causes, such as a pulmonary embolism or a blood clot in the blood vessels that lead to the lungs. However, it is far more frequently caused by asbestos fibres being inhaled or ingested and becoming lodged in the pleura (the protective membrane which surrounds the lungs and inside of the rib cage) causing thickening and scarring.

If the scarring becomes widespread and covers a large area (diffuse pleural thickening) it can cause the pleura to thicken to the extent that it is difficult for the lungs to expand, which results in breathing difficulties. Pleural thickening is a disease recognised by the Industrial Injuries Disablement Benefit (IIDB) scheme and sufferers are also entitled to receive a lump sum payment under the Pneumoconiosis etc. (Workers’ Compensation) Act 1979.

Concluding a successful claim

Taking instructions now from the family, Kate obtained medical evidence from a consultant respiratory surgeon to provide the likely prognosis of her client’s asbestos-related condition setting aside his other co-morbidities.  Extensive company searches were also necessary to determine the relevant ships on which he was employed and Kate had to do more detective work to obtain naval records to prove her client had indeed served aboard those ships.

Settlement negotiations commenced and compensation of some £10,000 was agreed and paid to the deceased’s estate. The family also got some satisfaction from the admission of liability by negligent employers decades ago – their main motivation in pursing the claim.

Pleural plaques

Although this claim for pleural thickening was successful, Kate cautions that pleural thickening should not be confused with pleural plaques, which can be similarly caused by asbestos exposure and result in isolated and discrete areas of thickening which only rarely cause symptoms:

‘It is no longer possible to claim compensation for pleural plaques in England and Wales, however those who made a pleural plaques claim in the past can still make a claim if they go on to develop a new condition such as asbestos-related lung cancer or mesothelioma. Any previous payment received will not prevent that.’

Kate Price-Marson

Pictured above: Kate Price-Marson, one of our solicitors specialising in industrial diseases.

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