Ulverston widow seeks justice over late husband's asbestos-related death

HARD WORKER: Bernard Thompson as a young man

HARD WORKER: Bernard Thompson as a young man

First published in News
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THE widow of a former Ulverston pig farm worker is taking legal action over his death from an asbestos-related disease.

Bernard Thompson died aged 80 in May 2012 from mesothelioma, a cancer of the lining of the lungs caused by exposure to deadly asbestos dust decades ago.

His widow Audrey Thompson has instructed specialist asbestos lawyers at Irwin Mitchell to investigate his death and find out how and why he was not better protected from the harmful substance. The law firm has now issued court proceedings.

Bernard was exposed to asbestos dust whilst working on a pig and poultry farm run by Jim Barton in Rosside near Ulverston, between 1953 and 1976. While building a number of pig houses, he used corrugated asbestos sheets in the roof. The first of these pig houses was constructed in about 1957, the second around 1960 and the third in 1962 or 1963.

Mrs Thompson, from Ulverston, said: “Bernard only really became ill in January 2012 but over the following months the terrible disease quickly became worse and he died just months later.

“My husband was a hard-working man and it has been difficult to come to terms with the fact that he became so ill simply because he went to work every day on the farm. I just hope that people who either knew him or remember any information about the insurers at the farm come forward to help with our investigations.”

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Roger Maddocks, a partner in the asbestos disease litigation team at Irwin Mitchell said: “In order to provide Mrs Thompson with a fair financial settlement we have tried to trace the relevant employers’ liability insurer from the time her husband was exposed to asbestos.

“Our evidence suggests that the National Farmers’ Union is the most likely insurer but they are disputing this point and we have issued court proceedings so that we can get clarity on this issue and look to progress the case.”

Because asbestos-related diseases take decades before they take hold investigations into the exposure and the relevant insurers can be difficult and require specialist knowledge. The owners of the pig farm, Mr Barton and his wife, have since died and the farm ceased operating in the 1980s. Now lawyers at Irwin Mitchell are appealing to people who may have worked at the farm to help with their enquiries.

Mr Maddocks added: “We would like to speak to anyone who might have any information on the working conditions or insurance arrangements at the Ulverston pig farm as they may be able to help Mrs Thompson to progress her case.”

Mr Thompson fitted the roofs of each pig house on and off over a period of about two months. He would have to drill through them using an electric drill and cut them down to size with a saw. This work would send considerable amounts of asbestos dust into the air and even outside it would have been difficult to avoid breathing the harmful fibres in.

In addition to the roof panels, asbestos boards were used to secure pig doors as pigs have a tendency to chew through wood. These boards were cut to size using either a handsaw or a circular saw and then each sheet had around nine holes drilled in it. Each pig house had about seven or eight pigsties with doors on so there were lots of asbestos boards to be cut.

Anyone with information on the working arrangements at Rosside pig farm in the 1960s and 1970s is asked to contact Katie.faulds@irwinmitchell.com or call 0191 279 0142.

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