Six-figure compensation for former dockyard worker with mesothelioma

Novum Law’s specialist asbestos disease team has secured compensation for the family of a man who developed the asbestos cancer mesothelioma after working many years ago as a dockyard worker at the Devonport Royal Dockyard in Plymouth.

Between the 1960s and 1980s, ‘Mr M’ worked as a labourer and then as a fire safety officer for the Ministry of Defence at the Devonport Dockyard. One of the largest naval bases in Europe, Devonport was used for shipbuilding and the repair and maintenance of ships and submarines.

Shortly after joining the dockyard, Mr M regularly went onboard warships and nuclear submarines to carry out fire control.  He would walk around vessels and make sure that all flammable materials were removed and thrown away. He also went aboard aircraft carriers, including HMS Bulwark and HMS Eagle, to carry out fire safety checks.

While he was carrying out checks, workers nearby would be cutting out pipework lagged with asbestos. This would sometimes involve ripping the lagging off or cutting out pipes using burning tools.  Mr M would stand close by with a fire extinguisher, clearing rubbish around them.  He recalled picking up pieces of asbestos lagging and noticing that the compartments were very dusty.

He continued with this work for over 20 years.  Although the other lagger workers were provided with masks, Mr M was not provided with any breathing protection, leading him to inhale a large quantity of dangerous asbestos dust.

Asbestos exposure on Navy ships and submarines

Asbestos was used extensively in many industries during the 20th century, including shipbuilding, construction, railways, manufacturing and oil refineries.

In the shipbuilding industry, asbestos was widely used on ships and submarines to insulate boilers, pipework, gaskets, walls, turbines and other equipment, as well as soundproofing. This meant that when ships or submarines were being built or refitted, there would be loose asbestos fibres and dust everywhere around the docks. Everyone nearby, from shipbuilders and maintenance workers to plumbers, laggers, electricians, engineers and apprentices, would be exposed to harmful amounts of asbestos.

Serious asbestos diseases such as the incurable cancer mesothelioma and other severe conditions, including asbestosis, asbestos-related lung cancer and pleural thickening, can develop many years after workers were first exposed.

The use of asbestos was banned in the 1990s, but it is only now that former shipbuilders and dockyard workers like Mr M are becoming seriously unwell with asbestos diseases.

Making a dockyard asbestos compensation claim

During Christmas 2018, decades after leaving Devonport, Mr M was diagnosed with the asbestos cancer mesothelioma. Following his tragic diagnosis, Mr M contacted Novum Law’s specialist asbestos disease team, who advised him about his negligent exposure to asbestos during his working career at Devonport dockyard and explained the asbestos compensation process to him.

Mr M instructed Novum Law to seek compensation on his behalf as quickly as possible during his lifetime. Following negotiations with the Ministry of Defence (who was responsible for the dockyard), Novum Law successfully secured a six-figure sum of compensation for Mr M and his family, ensuring that they would be financially secure.

Andrew Stinchcombe, a specialist asbestos disease solicitor from our Bristol team, has helped many former dockyard workers and shipbuilders to claim compensation. He said:

“Mesothelioma is a devastating asbestos disease for both victims and their families. Tragically, there is no cure, and most people diagnosed die within a year.

“In the past, employers did not warn their staff about the dangers of inhaling or ingesting asbestos. They failed to provide the necessary safeguards to protect their workers from the effects of asbestos dust, such as issuing protective masks. And very sadly,  people like Mr M and his family are paying the ultimate price.

“It is always our aim to obtain the best possible financial settlement for people who have been negligently exposed to asbestos at their place of work. While asbestos compensation cannot make our clients better, and in fact, all our clients say they would rather have their health back than receive a settlement, without adequate compensation, victims and their families often struggle to cope or worry about their future. Seeking advice from a specialist asbestos disease solicitor and getting compensation can give families better financial security and peace of mind.”

If you or a loved one has been diagnosed with an asbestos-related condition such as mesothelioma, it’s important you speak to an expert asbestos lawyer as soon as possible.

At Novum Law, our specialist team knows how challenging a mesothelioma diagnosis can be and will support you at every step and ensure you achieve maximum compensation.

To find out more about how Novum Law can support you on a ‘No Win No Fee‘ basis call us on Freephone 0800 884 0777, email or complete our online enquiry form for a free, no obligation chat.


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