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Helen Childs

New legal ruling could open doors to compensation for sufferers of ‘Swindon disease’

A significant new court ruling will provide new opportunities for people with industrial diseases to claim compensation, even if they agreed out-of-court settlements in the past.

Wiltshire-based industrial diseases specialist solicitor, Helen Childs, a partner at Withy King, welcomed the new ruling which was published on Friday (15 August).

“The new ruling is very good news for hundreds of families,” said Helen. “When someone is diagnosed with asbestosis, pleural thickening or pleural plaques, they are at an increased risk of developing more serious illnesses such as lung cancer and mesothelioma.

“Clients are sometimes poorly advised or feel that they ought to agree to a ‘full and final settlement’ but they should be wary, because the level of compensation seldom reflects the risks of their condition deteriorating.

“Anyone who develops mesothelioma or lung cancer should seek specialist legal advice. Compensation may be the last thing on people’s minds at such a difficult time, but fortunately, these types of claims will be fast tracked, and provide victims and their families with the peace of mind that they will be financially provided for.

“Before the new ruling, anyone who had agreed to a ‘full and final settlement’ was potentially unable to apply to the courts for additional compensation, even if they went on to develop a fatal illness as a result of their exposure to asbestos.

“Now, thanks to the new ruling, these families may be entitled to further compensation – if there are employers who may be liable that were not pursued in the original claim.

“Solicitors who provided poor advice which led to the client settling their case without explaining the full extent of the risk or financial consequences of their condition deteriorating.

“The door has possibly re-opened for many families who weren’t adequately compensated or feel they didn’t achieve justice first time around.”

Millions of tonnes of asbestos were imported into the UK from the 1930s to the 1970s. It was very widely used in construction and other industries.

Asbestos dust can have an adverse effect on health and those exposed to it may go on to develop diseases such as pleural plaques, pleural thickening, asbestosis, lung cancer and mesothelioma. Thousands of people die from asbestos-related illnesses every year.

Asbestos-related illnesses like mesothelioma and asbestosis are particularly prevalent among former Swindon railway works employees, where the material was used inside the boilers of steam engines.

In fact, it is so common in the town that asbestosis and mesothelioma has been dubbed ‘Swindon disease’.

Last August the widow of a former Swindon railway worker, who died of asbestos-related cancer in 2011, received £170,000 in compensation from British Rail.

A support group exists to help former rail employees and their families, Information can be found at