Asbestos death payout for hospice
A hospice is to receive a payout in a landmark claim that has come before the High Court.
A judge awarded St Joseph's Hospice in Hackney, east London, more than £10,000, plus interest, against a company held liable over the death of one of its patients from asbestos-related lung cancer.
James Wilson, who lived in a flat in Tower Hamlets, died in March 2007 of mesothelioma contracted as a result of exposure to asbestos while working for Foster Wheeler Ltd in the early 1950s as a boiler erector at Dartford power station. He was neither warned by his employer of the dangers of this exposure nor was he provided with respiratory protection.
His daughters Catherine Drake and Tina Starkey, executives of his estate, won damages against the company on behalf of themselves, Mr Wilson's children and grandchildren. But the daughters, who both live in Dagenham, Essex, also put in a claim on behalf of St Joseph's.
Catherine Foster, appearing on behalf of Foster Wheeler, had argued the claim was "not covered by permitted authority". The care received by Mr Wilson "was not provided or charged under a contract between St Joseph's and Mr Wilson", said Ms Foster.
But Judge Anthony Thornton QC, sitting at the High Court in London, ruled the hospice was entitled to "a reasonable sum" from the company, which he set at £10,021 with interest from the date of Mr Wilson's death. The judge observed the care given to Mr Wilson was "charitable in nature, gratuitous and provided without St Joseph's being under an obligation to provide it".
He said: "The institutional care was provided because the family members were no longer able to cope and Mr Wilson's condition had deteriorated to such an extent that home care was no longer possible. However, the inpatient care was entirely palliative and was solely directed to making Mr Wilson's few remaining days of life as comfortable and dignified as his declining health allowed."
St Joseph's imposed no restrictions on who could receive palliative care and for general philanthropic purposes it operated an open-door, non-charging regime with no obligation being imposed on the patients to contribute to its costs.
Caroline Pinfold, from law firm Irwin Mitchell's specialist asbestos-related disease team, represented the family. She said the judgment would provide comfort for many mesothelioma sufferers and their loved ones, and clarity for hospices providing them with care.
She said: "There is no doubt that justice has been done here today and that this landmark decision will be welcomed by the family of Mr Wilson and other victims of asbestos- related diseases who rely on palliative care to relieve their suffering. It also now provides a legal basis for hospices to be repaid for the tremendously valuable work they do where their care has been needed as a result of someone else's wrongdoing."