The family of a school caretaker and member of UNISON, who died from fatal cancer mesothelioma due to asbestos has received £248,000 compensation.

UNISON, the UK’s largest union, took up the case after its member was diagnosed with cancer of the lining of the lungs in December 2010. Mesothelioma is caused by exposure to asbestos, and there is no cure for the disease.

Sadly, the father of two from the Blackpool area died in March 2012. He was exposed to asbestos whilst working for Lancashire County Council as a caretaker at two primary schools during the 1980s. During his time at the schools he worked in the boiler rooms where asbestos was present.

Retired on ill-health grounds after mesothelioma diagnosis

He was still working for the Council as a school caretaker when he first began to suffer from symptoms of mesothelioma in September 2010. Following his diagnosis he became unable to do the job he loved and his employment was terminated on ill-health grounds. It was important to the member to know his wife of 40-years was cared for financially in the future.

Lancashire County Council initially denied liability, but a successful court ruling that he was exposed to asbestos by the council paved the way for compensation of more than £248,000.

Before his death, the caretaker said: “It was a tremendous shock when I was diagnosed with mesothelioma. I had never worked in the industries which are traditionally associated with asbestos and wasn’t aware that the asbestos present at the schools could cause me so much harm.

“I knew my trade union would be able to help me with claiming compensation. It was important for me to put in a claim as I am worried about my wife’s welfare in the future. I’ve now got peace of mind that she will be financially secure.”

Asbestos is still found in many public buildings

Dave Prentis, UNISON General Secretary, said: “This is an extremely sad case, and the compensation that our member’s family received could never make up for their tragic loss. At least this payment gave our member some peace of mind about his family's financial future when he passed away. Mesothelioma is a deadly killer and asbestos is still found in many public buildings. Employers must take this threat seriously and take every possible step to make sure people are safe at work.”

Gill Owen from Thompsons Solicitors, who took the case for UNISON, added: “It is important for those suffering from mesothelioma and their families that compensation is claimed quickly. The substantial compensation payment obtained during the lifetime of this client demonstrates our endeavour to ensure the highest possible settlement within the shortest possible time. Sadly he passed away just shortly after receiving the compensation but we hope it offered some relief in knowing his family would be provided for.”