Gordon Richard Wilson, died on 7 March 2005.
His exposure to asbestos during the course of his employment with the Caledonian Wharfage Company Limited led him to develop injury, disease and contributed to his death.
He was registered as a Dock Labourer under the National Dock Labour Board, and his duties were to load and unload various cargo on ships barges and lorries. On a daily basis he had to load and unload a substantial amount of both blue asbestos powder and fibre asbestos and in an 8 hour shift would be manually handling asbestos from 4 to 5 hours each shift on a daily basis. As part of unloading and loading the sacks of asbestos he would manually lift up the sacks to tie ropes around them so that the crane could lift the sacks. When doing this he would be covered head to toe in asbestos dust.
Apart from overalls the only protective equipment given to our client was a dust mask.
Mr Wilson worked with asbestos dust from 1964 until 1970. He was however not aware of any other period of time during which he was exposed to asbestos.
By the time Mr Wilson suffered with symptoms of the disease, the Caledonian Wharfage company had long disappeared, as had their insurers. This made holding them to account for exposing him to the dust in this was very difficult.
Using the Insurers database to try to track down the insurance company responsible and who had taken a premium in return for employers liability protection was fruitless.
It was only after lengthy court proceedings and involving two separate organisations (both of whom denied responsibility) that the estate of Gordon Wilson recovered a five figure sum.
Marcus Weatherby Partner at Pattinson and Brewer solicitors said “Asbestos diseases have a long latency period from initial exposure to development of disease from 50 years or longer. By the time symptoms develop frequently we find that the company who caused the problem and their insurer have disappeared. Often this results in the injured and their families going uncompensated. I am pleased that on this occasion we were successful despite this.”
Under proposals published this month by the Financial Services Authority (FSA Insurers will need to maintain a database of all employers’ liability (EL) policies they have written or renewed since 1st November 1999). This will help those who claim in the future.
In relation to those struggling to track down companies prior to this date, there have been calls for the industry to set up a compensation fund of last resort if no relevant employer or insurer could be found. However, to date, no such organisation has been established.