Belfast Telegraph

Widow of ex-shipyard and postal worker exposed to asbestos to receive compensation even though cause of death unrelated

By Alan Erwin

The widow of a former shipyard and postal worker exposed to asbestos is to receive £10,000 compensation - even though his cause of death was completely unrelated.

A High Court judge ruled today that Carol McCauley was entitled to the pay-out for the stress and anxiety her husband Harry suffered after learning he had pleural plaques.

Mr McCauley, 74, died in February 2013 of multiple organ failure following cardiomyopathy, a disease of the heart muscle.

He had worked for Harland and Wolff in Belfast from 1955 to 1961 and then Royal Mail from around 1964 to 1980.

Mr McCauley went on to join the RUC, serving in the police for more than 20 years.

Pleural places - an asymptomatic thickening of the lining of the lungs which signal the presence of asbestos fibres but no other related diseases - first appeared on an x-ray of his chest in 1991.

The court heard, however, that he was only informed of the condition a year before his death.

His widow sued both Harland and Wolff and Royal Mail over the pleural plaques diagnosis.

With both defendants admitting Mr McCauley had been exposed to asbestos during his employment with them, the only issue to be decided was the level of damages.

Mrs McCauley told the court her husband suffered more anxiety and distress on being told he had pleural plaques than due to his hearty condition.

She said this was because he had been aware of the effects of her own asthma condition, and knew of others who had suffered asbestos-related deaths.

Defence lawyers argued there was no evidence that Mr McCauley went to his GP about any such anxiety.

But his wife countered by insisting he was not a complainer and had to be dragged to the doctor.

Ruling on the case Mr Justice O'Hara held that pleural plaques is a statutory personal injury for which damages should be awarded if fault is proven.

The judge acknowledged that Mr McCauley's death was not attributable to any asbestos-related condition.

But he said: "Nevertheless, the knowledge that he had pleural plaques and his awareness of deaths from asbestos-related conditions must have caused him some stress and anxiety.

"I accept that this is not referred to in his medical records, but I do not find that in any way surprising for the reasons given by the plaintiff which I accept."

Mr Justice O'Hara confirmed he was making an award of £10,000, with both defendants sharing liability.

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