A victim of asbestos exposure, their family and appointed asbestosis lawyers always hope they will be able to settle their mesothelioma claim as soon as possible, in many cases, by an out-of court settlement.

However, an employer may dispute their liability for causing occupational exposure to asbestos simply because a former employee worked at several companies during their lifetime. The onus is on the claimant to provide evidence of asbestos exposure at a specific workplace, where it was a material contribution to causing the later development of a victim’s asbestos-related disease.

In one recent case, an 83 old claimant strongly believed that his mesothelioma was caused by exposure to asbestos during the twenty years he was employed by a power cable manufacturer who have denied responsibility.

Claimant must show a defendant’s negligence

It may not always be possible to clearly determine at which workplace an exposure to asbestos may have first caused the disease if a worker was exposed by more than one employer, and on more than one occasion. Proving liability in a mesothelioma case usually requires that the claimant must show that, “on the balance of probabilities”, it was the defendant’s negligence or specific actions which caused the damage / injury.

It is always hoped that a claim can be settled before time runs out. Mesothelioma and other asbestos – related conditions can take up to 40 or 50 years or more from an initial period of exposure before the first asbestosis symptoms appear. The cancer would have often spread to an advanced stage when a mesothelioma diagnosis is confirmed, which may leave the patient with between 6 – 18 months left to live.

Family to continue with a civil action

Despite responding well to a course of palliative (pain alleviation) radiotherapy, the former cable factory worker succumbed to the fatal cancer before the claim could get to court. As is so often the case, it is now left to the family to continue with a civil action by appealing to former work colleagues to provide their accounts of working conditions with regards to the possible presence of asbestos.

In a statement left by the deceased, the former cable worker says that he was exposed to asbestos, which was used to insulate the factory pipework, and in the air vents. When he was employed at the factory from the early 1970s onwards, Britain was still importing more than 150,000 tons of the highly toxic brown, blue asbestos, as well as white asbestos, each year.

Low-cost source of insulation

At the height of Britain’s asbestos use during the 1950s, 60s and 70s, the mineral fibres were widely used as a low-cost source of insulation to line boilers, air heating vents and lag hot water pipework in every type of industrial factory, commercial and public building.

Despite the ban on blue and brown asbestos in the mid 1980s, by the end of the cable worker’s employment in the early 1990s, around 10,000 tons of white asbestos was still arriving on our shores before a complete halt in 1999.

Tragically, cases involving men who recall working in spaces where asbestos was present continue to be regularly reported. Although never directly handling the deadly insulation, they would regularly breathe in the airborne fibre dust over an extended period of time.

The clear link to lung related disease saw asbestos use starting to decline from the late 1970s. However, employers often demonstrated a widespread lack of asbestos awareness, or simply ignored the long term health damage. Time and time again victims recall that companies neglected to issue any type of personal protection or even an adequate breathing mask to their workforce. Some men could still be working in environments where asbestos was most probably present up until the 1980s or even 90s.

8 in 10 of all male mesothelioma traced to occupational asbestos exposures

Even if there was no direct handling of asbestos, around 8 in 10 of all male mesothelioma cancers can be traced to occupational asbestos exposures, say the Health and Safety Executive (HSE). More than 500 male and female annual deaths from mesothelioma were recorded in the early 1980s, double the number from a decade earlier. By the early 1990s, the toll was more than 1000 deaths per year, doubling again to above 2000 by the end of the following decade.

Between 1968 and 2013, the number of males aged 50 – 70 rose by around 25 per cent and will continue to rise by a further 20-35 per cent by 2050, according to latest available figures released by the Office of National Statistic ( ONS, 2015).