£86,000 compensation plea upheld

An 84 year-old man, who was diagnosed with an asbestos related tumour, 40 years after working at a gasworks, has had his right to £86,000 compensation upheld.

Gerry Cox from Horsforth, Leeds, was diagnosed with Mesothelioma in 2004. He had worked at the Bankfield gas plant in Hull for just a few weeks in the late 1960’s and early 1970’s. Mesothelioma is an asbestos-related cancer of the lining of the lungs. Symptoms of the disease sometimes do not appear up to 20-50 years after exposure to asbestos. It was claimed that Mr Cox was exposed to asbestos whilst working at the gas plant.

He had worked at the Bankfield site laying cables when he was a contractor for a Hull-based company, T. Strang Electrical Engineers Ltd. During the time Mr Cox worked at the site, lorries were removing lagging containing asbestos from pipework. The pensioner said that he worked there for around two-three weeks and that while he was employed there he went into the building and saw a two-inch layer of dust covering the floor, believed to be asbestos dust.

Mr Cox filed a claim against Transco Plc, who is now responsible for the site. They did not accept liability and argued that Mr Cox could have been exposed to asbestos in the intervening years. At York County Court in December 2005, Transco Plc was found liable and a sum of £86,750 in compensation was agreed.

Transco plc then appealed against the decision but it was dismissed. Lord Justice Buxton said whilst dismissing Transco’s argument that British Gas had “breached its duty of care” at the Bankfield site, where Mr Cox was “likely to have been exposed to significant amounts of asbestos”.

In the first hearing in December the Judge ruled that, on the “balance of probabilities”, Mr Cox was exposed to the deadly dust at Bankfield and it was that which caused his terminal illness.

Robert Frank Owen QC, Transco’s barrister, argued at the Court of Appeal: “The existence of an alternative and established cause of Mr Cox’s tumour precludes any kind of presumption and inference that there was probably significant exposure at the Bankfield site.”

Lord Justice Buxton dismissed the company’s appeal. He said: “The judge was entitled to reach the conclusion that Mr Cox’s illness related to the time he was working at Bankfield.”

Mr Cox and his two children were pleased that the matter is finally over and he can now enjoy his compensation in the time he has left.

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