Lowestoft woman sues husband’s former employer over asbestos exposure

A woman with asbestos-related cancer is taking her husband's former employer to court.

A woman with asbestos-related cancer is taking her husband's former employer to court. - Credit: Archant

A woman with asbestos-related lung cancer has launched a compensation bid against her husband's former employer after alleging she developed the disease as a result of handling his asbestos-contaminated work clothes.

Joyce Harding, 77, from Lowestoft, has issued High Court proceedings to claim up to £200,000 from Ruskin Park House Limited, previously Ruskin Park Housing Association, for negligently exposing her to the material more than 30 years ago.

Mrs Harding, of Elizabeth Close, has alleged she developed malignant mesothelioma when her husband Arthur, 78, was employed as an assistant caretaker at flats owned by the organisation in Denmark Hill, London, between 1975 and 1977.

It is claimed Ruskin Park House Limited allowed Mr Harding to be exposed to the asbestos and to return home each day in his contaminated work clothes when the organisation knew, or ought to have known, it was putting Mr Harding and his immediate family at risk of asbestos-related injury.

It is believed Mrs Harding's life has been shortened by up to 13 years as a result of the disease.

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Papers submitted to the High Court state Mr Harding was exposed to asbestos dust whilst working in the boiler rooms at the flats as part of his regular duties.

The boilers and pipework were lagged with asbestos-based insulation, which was in poor repair and had released fibres in to the atmosphere of the boiler room that had settled on the floor and surrounding surfaces. Mr Harding would brush up the dust and debris on the floor and his work overalls, hair and body would become heavily contaminated with asbestos fibres.

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The court papers state Mr Harding would 'return home at the end of each working day in his overalls which would often be heavily contaminated with respirable asbestos fibres and dust.

'After greeting Mrs Harding with a kiss and a hug he would remove his overalls. The claimant would then shake off the dust before washing the overalls. She would do this in the kitchen which itself would then become contaminated with the asbestos fibres and dust.'

The couple were unaware of the danger at the time but in January last year, Mrs Harding began to show the first signs of the illness and became ill with persistent nausea, vomiting and weight loss.

By May she was short of breath and suffering chest pain.

She was diagnosed with malignant mesothelioma in July and underwent chemotherapy. Mrs Harding's condition is expected to continue to deteriorate as a result of the disease, which is likely to shorten her life by about 13 years.

Ruskin Park House Limited was contacted by the EDP but declined to comment.

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