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Ex-British Rail Worker, 77, Receives Asbestos Compensation

The consequences of asbestos exposure can take many years to reveal themselves and the passage of time often leads victims to assume that it is all in the past and that it is too late to sue. The case of a former British Rail worker who was awarded substantial compensation at the age of 77 showed how very wrong they are.

The pensioner began work for British Rail as a 15-year-old apprentice in 1956. He was part of a team engaged in repairing carriages until 1963, when he moved on to other employment. In his autumn years, he had developed disabling pulmonary fibrosis which had reduced his life expectancy by three years.

He launched proceedings against the Department for Transport (DfT), which inherited the liabilities of British Rail. He asserted that his condition arose from asbestos exposure whilst he worked for the company, but the DfT argued that it was idiopathic and its cause unknown.

Ruling on the matter, the High Court noted that the man had worked for British Rail seven days a week and in train carriages four or five times a week. It was apparent from surviving documents that a considerable number of carriages built between 1951 and 1967 were sprayed internally with blue asbestos as body insulation.

Although the man had suffered a stroke which affected his ability to express himself, the Court found that he was an honest witness who had given clear and consistent evidence concerning his time with British Rail. In upholding his personal injury claim, the Court ruled that he had been exposed to hazardous levels of asbestos. The amount of his compensation was agreed but not publicly disclosed.

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