Family secures damages for secondary asbestos exposure in landmark case
A family from Paisley have been awarded £247,000 in a ground breaking legal case after losing their mother from mesothelioma caused by second-hand exposure to asbestos.
This is the first time in Scotland in which a case has been successfully pursued on behalf of someone who suffered from secondary exposure to asbestos from their spouse’s clothes.
Mrs Adrienne Sweeney, who died in 2015, seven years after her husband passed away, was exposed to asbestos after coming into contact with dust from her husband’s work overalls. William Sweeney had worked for Babcock & Wilcox Limited at their boiler-making factory in Renfrew in the 1960s.
He brought his work clothes home to be washed by his wife who then suffered secondary exposure to asbestos and contracted mesothelioma.
Lawyers for the family said they were left in the difficult position of proving their case with their father not there to provide evidence of the working conditions at Babcock's. However, a former colleague came forward on Mr Sweeney's behalf.
Mrs Sweeney’s daughter Kay Gibson said: “We are pleased that our case against Babcock International was successful. Most importantly this gives our late mother the justice she wanted in life and that we sought on her behalf after her painful and unnecessarily premature death.
“Our loving mother like so many other women in Scotland in the late 1960s and early 1970s supported her family by caring for her children and washing her husband’s overalls when he returned from a hard day’s work for employers who used deadly asbestos.
She added: "These women were unaware how unsafe it was to be handling the asbestos dust that came from these work clothes or of the contamination risk to their own and their families' lungs.
"We, her children, await to see if we will suffer the same fate.
"Babcock International have not won their case but it is wrong that ordinary bereaved families still have to individually battle the might of global corporations for justice for their late relatives in such situations."
The family’s lawyer Nicola Macara from Thompsons Solicitors said: “It is very regrettable that Babcock International Limited made the family go through the full court process hoping that, with all those central to the case being dead, they would successfully defend the action.
“Fortunately, we were able to lead credible and reliable evidence as a result of having taken both Mrs Sweeney’s and the late witness’ statements. This landmark case is a very positive outcome not only for the Sweeney family but for all Scots fighting to ensure that justice is done for sufferers of asbestos-related disease.”