The family of a North East asbestos campaigner who died from asbestos related cancer has been successful in claiming compensation on behalf of the hospice which cared for him during his final weeks.

Alan Clark was 59 when he died from peritoneal mesothelioma, a cancer of the lining of the stomach caused by exposure to asbestos.

He passed away in August 2009 at Hartlepool and District Hospice just a few months after he was first diagnosed with the disease.

Alan left behind his wife Stella, three daughters and a grandson. He was exposed to asbestos while working as a lagger on various industrial sites in Teesside and elsewhere in the UK. His father, who also worked with asbestos, also died from mesothelioma 14 years ago.

Thompsons Solicitors made claim for compensation

Before his death he instructed asbestos claims specialists Thompsons Solicitors with the support of his union GMB. He wanted to make sure his family were financially secure but also to make a claim on behalf of the Hartlepool and District Hospice where he had received care during the advanced stage of his illness.

Following his death Stella continued the claim. Thompsons was successful in settling the claim out of court obtaining substantial damages for Stella from Alan’s former employers Spousal Midland Limited and Cape Darlington Limited. In addition they recovered £13,600 for Hartlepool and District Hospice in the claim against the employers.

Stella said: “The hospice took wonderful care of Alan during his final weeks. He had one to one care and everything he needed was on hand straight away. I was able to visit for as long as I wanted, even late at night. During those difficult days it was those little things that made such a big difference.

“Alan was determined to claim compensation on behalf of the hospice. They helped make his final days easier and he felt strongly that his former employers should pay towards the treatment. He would have been delighted with this settlement.”

Many hospice patients have become ill as a result of exposure to asbestos

Tracy Woodall, chief executive of the Hartlepool and District Hospice said: “The hospice exists to improve the lives of people affected by life limiting illness. Unfortunately we see many patients who have become ill as a result of exposure to asbestos. We hope that we can provide them with a calm and caring environment during the times they stay with us.

“It costs us £2.8m a year to maintain our services and only 20% of these costs are met by the government. As a result we rely on donations to continue our care. This compensation will help us to continue to provide unique and much needed services to the people of Hartlepool and East Durham.”

Tom Brennan, GMB union Regional Secretary, said: “This has been an understandably difficult time for Alan’s family. Alan was a tremendous advocate for the GMB and our members. Perhaps a fitting testament and legacy to him is that his wife, Stella, was able to continue the fight and we were able to obtain a vital settlement which will help others suffering from this terrible disease.

“In my view industrial disease is not an accident. It’s a scandal of companies showing absolutely no moral or social responsibility. The GMB’s role is to fight such employers in using the full force of the law and where the law is inadequate to seek to change it. That has been our position with asbestos related diseases and will remain to be so.“

Ian McFall head of asbestos policy at Thompsons Solicitors added: “This case highlights a developing area of law which mesothelioma sufferers and their families can use when claiming compensation to help the hospice which provided care. Hospices offer valuable comfort and support to people, often during their last days. However, they are reliant on the community for funds. It can make a real difference to the hospice to recover the cost of the care from the employer responsible for causing the patient’s illness.”