Compensation for Cornish man after asbestos exposure at Falmouth Dockyard

A Cornish man who developed the serious medical condition asbestosis after working at Falmouth Dockyard has secured compensation with the support of specialist asbestos lawyer Brigit Nolan from Novum Law’s Plymouth team.

‘Chris’* started work as an apprentice fitter machinist at Falmouth Dockyard in Cornwall in 1958. He directly handled asbestos while welding large cast iron pipes, which were covered in asbestos to allow them to cool slowly, and packed valves by sprinkling asbestos into them.

In the third year of his apprenticeship, Chris went to work onboard ships. He mainly worked in boiler rooms and engine rooms as a fitter, where his job was to repair pipes and valves. At the same time, laggers would remove some of the asbestos pipe lagging, but there was always some left over, which Chris would burn off.

He recalled the ships being very dusty environments in general, and that the asbestos that was removed was not cleared up properly. This meant that there was lots of dangerous asbestos debris and dust from the lagging, which Chris would end up inhaling.

He also remembered working on the cases of turbines, which were thickly lagged with asbestos. Although by the time Chris worked on the turbines, much of the lagging had been removed, there was always some asbestos left for him to blow off with a heat lamp.

Asbestos in shipbuilding

Chris is one of many former shipyard and dockyard workers who were exposed to asbestos at work. In the 20th century, asbestos was commonly used in shipbuilding and ship maintenance for waterproofing, fireproofing and insulation.

Fitters like Chris, as well as laggers, plumbers, electricians, engineers, apprentices and many more would handle or work beside asbestos every day. It would be found and used all over ships and submarines on pipes, insulation panels, turbines and fittings.

Undisturbed asbestos is relatively safe, but dust and fibres from loose asbestos can be incredibly dangerous when breathed in.

The damage and scarring they cause in the body can lead to asbestos-related health conditions such as pleural thickening (thickening of the lung lining), asbestosis and even cancers such as asbestos-related lung cancer and mesothelioma.

Asbestos diseases can take decades to develop, so thousands of former shipbuilders who handled loose asbestos as a standard part of their daily work are only now being diagnosed many years later.

Compensation after asbestosis diagnosis

Chris experienced pains in his chest and breathlessness and was initially diagnosed with the lung condition fibrosis. He was told that this could be caused by asbestos exposure and following further specialist review by doctors, his diagnosis was changed to asbestosis.

Asbestosis is a form of fibrosis specifically related to asbestos exposure, which Chris knew he had faced working at Falmouth Dockyard.

He got in touch with Novum Law, where his case was taken up by specialist asbestos disease lawyer Brigit Nolan, who met Chris to discuss his career at the dockyard and onboard ships. It was established that Falmouth Dockyard had not taken enough steps to protect Chris from asbestos exposure and his employers were negligent.

Brigit then helped Chris pursue Falmouth Dockyard for compensation. Asbestosis is a ‘benign’ condition, which means that it is non-cancerous. Although asbestosis has painful consequences, it is not necessarily terminal.

However, Chris understood that his condition could worsen or develop into lung cancer or mesothelioma, both of which have a very short life expectancy.

After hearing his options and Novum Law’s advice, Chris decided that because of his age and pre-existing illnesses he would opt for a full and final settlement rather than a provisional settlement (which would leave the option open to potentially pursue further compensation later on). His case was settled for a substantial figure.

Brigit says:

“Asbestosis can have wide-ranging effects on the life of the person diagnosed and their loved ones who have to watch them suffer. Although the compensation we help our clients to secure can never make up for the terrible condition they face, it’s important to be aware of the ways in which compensation can improve someone’s living standards.

“Chris’s claim covered the pain and suffering he faced as a result of his condition, as well as the lost years of his life, the cost of DIY needed around the home, increased shopping costs and finally the cost of care and equipment to improve his quality of life.

“It’s important to know that if you have been diagnosed with asbestosis as a result of a former employer’s negligence, you deserve justice. Our expert team at Novum Law has strong experience of supporting people who have been exposed to asbestos in shipbuilding. We will help you secure the care and support you need, as well as maximum compensation for those responsible for your condition.”

If you or a loved one was exposed to asbestos in shipbuilding and has been diagnosed with an asbestos-related disease such as asbestosis, Novum Law may be able to help you on a ‘No Win, No Fee’ basis. Call us on 0800 884 0777, email us at or complete our online form for a free, no-obligation chat.

*Client’s name changed to protect their privacy


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