The family of a man who died of lung cancer following years of asbestos exposure at work have been awarded £61,600 against his former employers.

James Leo Heneghan of Middleton, died aged 76 in January last year after contracting the fatal illness.

His son continued the legal fight started by his father when he was still alive.

The case was launched against six companies Mr Heneghan worked for between 1961 and 1974, when he was exposed to asbestos fibres which found their way onto his clothes and skin and ultimately his lungs.

In the first case of its kind, the family’s lawyers argued that, although the six firms sued were not Mr Heneghan’s only former employers, they should pay the full compensation of £175,000 he was entitled to on account of his illness.

But, following a High Court hearing, Mr Justice Jay ruled the firms should only pay for the asbestos exposure they were responsible for – about 35 per cent – and therefore his family would only receive £61,600 – just over a third of the total sum.

Mr Heneghan worked on a number of sites, including Trafford Park, Withington Hospital, an oil refinery in Carrington and a hospital in Yorkshire.

While all six former employers involved in the case accepted Mr Heneghan was exposed to asbestos, they argued they should only pay a portion of the compensation and not the full amount as it could not be proved this alone caused his illness.

Mr Justice Jay said this issue had never previously been decided by a court in an asbestos case and therefore was of ‘some difficulty and importance’.

Agreeing with the defendants that they should only pay part of the damages, he added: “The claimant has demonstrated on the balance of probabilities that the deceased’s lung cancer was not caused by non-occupational factors.

“However, if the question is re-framed in these terms – has it been proved that any of the defendants who have been sued caused the deceased’s lung cancer? – the answer must be in the negative.”

He concluded: “It follows that apportionment is the appropriate outcome in the present case and the claimant’s recovery is limited to the sum of £61,600.”

If you or a family member have been affected by mesothelioma please contact us today on Freephone 0800 294 3065, or talk to us on live chat where we will be happy to answer any questions that you may have.