Funding boost for St Clare Hospice after lawyers recover care costs for Harlow dad-of-two who died of asbestos cancer

Charity / Wed 26th Apr 2023 at 02:28pm

ST CLARE Hospice has received a funding boost after lawyers recovered costs for a man it cared for before his death from asbestos cancer.

Terry Coombes, from Harlow, was diagnosed with mesothelioma in October 2019.  A cancer of the lining of the lungs, mesothelioma is most commonly associated with exposure to asbestos often decades previously. He died nine months later in July 2020, aged 82.

Prior to his death, dad-of-two Terry instructed asbestos-related disease lawyers at Irwin Mitchell to investigate his illness and where he could have come into contact with the hazardous substance.  After he died, his daughters Paula Jewell, 58, and Julie Pope, 61, continued the investigation alongside his legal team.

The legal experts have now secured a settlement sum for Terry’s loved ones after his legal team were able to demonstrate that his exposure was likely to have occurred during the course of his employment.  Due to a previous landmark court judgment secured by Irwin Mitchell, they were also able to recover the sum of £2532.39 towards the costs of Terry’s care provided by St Clare Hospice.

Ahead of Workers’ Memorial Day, Terry’s family have now joined with their legal team to thank the staff who cared for him in his final days.  They’re also warning of the dangers of asbestos and the need for employers to ensure the safety of staff.

Natalia Rushworth-White, the specialist asbestos-related disease lawyer at Irwin Mitchell who supported Terry’s loved ones, said: “Terry’s family understandably remain devastated by their loss, however being able to help the hospice that cared for him towards the end of his life has provided them with some comfort.

“Hospices up and down the country carry out amazing work providing patients with end of life care while supporting their loved ones during an incredibly difficult time.  

“While nothing can ever make up for their loss, we’re pleased to have secured this money on behalf of Terry’s family which will help ensure the hospice can continue to carry out its vital work for other families.”

Meanwhile, as Workers’ Memorial Day approaches, Terry’s story is a stark reminder that asbestos is still a very real danger in the workplace and highlights how vital it is that employers keep their workers safe.

In 1966, Terry began working as a machine operator involved in moulding liquid glass into bottles and jars.  He remained in the role for around 14 months. 

Following an investigation into the working conditions faced by Terry, another former employee told the lawyers at Irwin Mitchell that the glassmaking machines had conveyor belts with board insulation in the middle which he believed was made from asbestos.  He recalled that engineers sometimes had to remove the covers during repairs, exposing the asbestos, and replacement boards often had to be trimmed to fit, causing asbestos fibres and dusts to be released.

He added that the furnaces used for producing molten glass were also thought to be insulated with asbestos, and the removal of the asbestos lagging took place in the factory space where they worked, again releasing dust into the air.

Terry began to suffer from breathlessness in September 2019.  He went to see his GP and was referred for a chest X-ray the same day.  He was diagnosed with mesothelioma one month later.

Terry received inpatient care from St Clare Hospice before he died on 8 July 2020.

His daughters said “The support the hospice provided to Dad and us towards the end of his life was brilliant. It was a relief to us that he was getting the care he needed and also a comfort having people who knew what we were going through.

“Now the case is settled, we’re grateful that we can honour dad’s memory and give something back to the staff at the hospice. What they do for families is invaluable and the funding will ensure they can help others in the same way they helped us.

“Meanwhile, we want to highlight how asbestos continues to pose a risk in the workplace and employers need to take care of their employees at all times.”

Workers’ Memorial Day is on 28 April and remembers those who have died as a result of their employment and campaigns to improve health and safety standards in the workplace and increase protection for employees.

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