A woman who has won a six-year compensation battle over her husband’s asbestos death says no amount of money will ever repay her for the toll it has taken on her own health.
Margaret Cooper will find out in November from the High Court exactly how much she will be awarded, but has been told to expect more than £100,000 and has already had an interim payment.
However, she said the grief of losing her husband Kenneth and anxiety of fighting to get justice for him had “shattered” her life – driving her to a nervous breakdown.
But the 65-year-old, of Apperley Bridge, said despite her struggle she was still proof that other families making similar claims should never give up.
Earlier this year Mrs Cooper contacted the Telegraph & Argus making a desperate plea for her husband’s old workmates, from the now-defunct Woolcombers Ltd in the 1960s, to get in touch and give evidence they had worked alongside him.
She feared her compensation claim would fail otherwise and eventually one man did get in touch and it was him, says Mrs Copper, who swayed the case in her favour.
Mrs Cooper said she was elated when her solicitor called her after a three-way phone conference between himself, the High Court judge and her late husband’s company’s insurers, telling her she had won.
“Unless the insurers come back with a payout offer sooner, it will be November when the court will tell me exactly how much my claim will be awarded.”
Mr Cooper had carried out maintenance work on pipework lagged with asbestos at Woolcombers which had factories in Legrams Lane and Cutler Heights Lane. According to his specialist lawyer, Paul Meehan from trade union law firm OH Parsons, he was never warned of the dangers of asbestos and was not provided with a mask.
Mrs Cooper said her husband, who died aged 62 from mesothelioma – asbestos-related lung cancer – on November 14, 2007, was robbed of the rest of his life.
“I fought this for him and to get the justice he deserved. It won’t bring him back, no money will do that or pay back the terrible toll this has all taken on my health.
“No one understands the human toll of this disease caused by working conditions unless they have lived through it. You have to walk a mile in someone’s shoes to truly understand and no one would have wanted to walk in mine. Everytime I’ve had a letter or a call about this I’ve had to relive my husband’s death over and over again. I’ve panicked, suffered depression and it led to a nervous breakdown.
“The money will make my life easier but I was with Kenneth for 30 years – I will always love him and remember him but I have to look forward now and try to enjoy the rest of my life with my children and grandchildren.”
She added: “Asbestos shattered my life and what is more tragic is that there are so many other people out there fighting for compensation, going through what I did. It’s absolutely rife, it’s of epidemic proportions but these people must keep persevering like I did and must never give up.”
According to World Health organisation estimates, more than 107,000 people die each year from asbestos-related lung cancer and asbestosis resulting from exposure at work.
Asbestos is a natural mineral used commercially in insulation in buildings and an ingredient in roofing shingles, water supply lines, fire blankets, plastic fillers, medical packing as well as clutch and brake linings, gaskets and pads for vehicles. All forms of asbestos are carcinogenic to humans, and may cause mesothelioma and cancer of the lung, larynx and ovary, says the organisation.
Mrs Cooper’s solicitor Paul Meehan said: “We were in the High Court in London and managed to get a judgement against Woolcombers. They have fought this tooth and nail all along and until the Telegraph & Argus helped us get a vital witness the case was at risk of being struck off.
“Thanks to that witness who came forward, Woolcombers gave in and we got a judgement with an initial payment and now the plan’s to go for a trial in November for the final payment ruling unless Woolcombers come back to us first with an acceptable offer – they could end it all then and there.”