Compensation for retired head teacher’s secretary exposed to asbestos and diagnosed with mesothelioma

A Hereford woman, who spent nearly three years working as a secretary in a school in South London has received a six figure compensation package from the London Borough of Croydon after being diagnosed with mesothelioma, a terminal cancer caused by exposure to asbestos.

Her lawyer Phillip Gower, an expert in asbestos-related diseases, secured the successful claim for the client who worked at Lady Edridge High School for Girls in Croydon in the early 1980s.

During her time at the school, which was closed in 1986, the client was exposed to significant quantities of deadly asbestos due to the buildings’ poor condition and lack of proper maintenance.

Part of her role involved touring the school with the headteacher, which included all the classrooms, the staff room, the science block and the boiler room and making notes of required repairs and repair schedules.

There was asbestos lagging used in the central heating pipework within the school and asbestos lagging was used extensively in the boiler room.

Asbestos was present on a number of the classroom walls. The noticeboards, many of which were damaged, were made, we believe, of materials that contained asbestos. One of our client’s jobs was pinning leaflets and notices to the noticeboards, exposing her to asbestos.

The client explains:

“There is no doubt there was asbestos within the school and the buildings were at times in an often poor state of repair.

“At no time in my employment at the school was I warned about the dangers of being exposed to asbestos dust and fibres. I was given no personal protective equipment as I went about my secretarial duties.

“I wish I’d known what I know now. I would have resigned my post immediately. Asbestos is toxic and it ruins lives. Just by doing my secretarial duties at a girls’ school four decades’ ago, I’ve been diagnosed with terminal cancer. My employers could have prevented this from happening.”

The client was diagnosed with malignant epithelioid mesothelioma in 2019 after suffering from chest pains and shortness of breath.

Before her symptoms, our client was enjoying her retirement. She was extremely fit, walking everywhere and enjoying Hereford and attending the gym three days a week.

Our client continues:

“As you can imagine, me, my husband and my family are devastated by my diagnosis. There is no cure for the mesothelioma.  Fortunately, I have responded well to treatment.”

Phillip Gower from Novum Law’s Cardiff office says:

“Tragically, we are seeing a significant increase in the number of women with asbestos diseases contacting us for assistance and help.

“Many women get asbestos disease from secondary exposure by washing their husband’s work overalls. However, more and more are exposed to asbestos in places you wouldn’t normally expect – such as in schools, office buildings and shops. Often the consequences of exposure are not realised until many years later.

“No one is immune to the dangers of asbestos. As it can be seen from the growing numbers of cases, women are as at risk from asbestos diseases as are men and have as much of a right to justice or compensation as men.”

Mesothelioma rates in women are growing. To find out more about the causes and how to make a mesothelioma claim, visit our women and mesothelioma page.


If you or a loved one has been diagnosed with an asbestos-related disease, Novum Law’s team of specialist asbestos disease lawyers can help on a ‘no win no fee’ basis.

To find out more information, contact us on Freephone: 0800 884 0777 or email:


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