28 June 2010 - Former British Rail worker receives compensation for Mesothelioma in four and 1/2 months

Alan-Burton11In late November 2009 we were contacted by Alan Burton, who had been diagnosed with mesothelioma, terminal asbestos related cancer, following exposure to asbestos dust during his 50 year career with British Rail.  He instructed Kevin Johnson, a partner in our Liverpool office, to investigate a claim on his behalf.  He received a six figure sum in compensation less than four and a half months later.    Below: Alan and his wife, Sheila, enjoying a cruise with their family after receiving Alan’s compensation.      



Alan, an 80 year old grandfather, was reasonably fit and well when he developed severe breathlessness.  He went to see his GP in October 2009 who referred him for a chest x-ray. After various investigations, including a biopsy, he was given the devastating news that he was suffering from mesothelioma on 13th November 2009.  He was well aware of the nature of this disease having seen friends and former workmates die of it.

Alan’s diagnosis was a devastating blow for him and his family.  He had always led an active life having played competitive table tennis until he was 73.  He was chairman of the Manchester League for 20 years and was involved in helping to organise the Commonwealth Table Tennis Tournament when the Games came to Manchester.  He was also a voluntary driver for a rehabilitative hospital for stroke and wheelchair users and well as a Governor at a local Grammar School for about 20 years.

Alan had a long and distinguished career with British Rail starting with his apprenticeship as an electrical / mechanical fitter in September 1945 and finishing with his retirement in 1993 as Plant Engineer North West.  He was recalled twice due to his experience and in his last period of employment he made huge savings for his employer, in the region of £300,000 a year, due to his immense knowledge of the job.  He was never warned that asbestos was dangerous to his health or provided with effective personal protective equipment by his employers.

Alan’s duties involved repairing damaged insulation in boiler plants and preparing boilers for statutory inspections which brought him into contact with damaged asbestos lagging.    He carried out repairs using blue asbestos, which he mixed with water.  He also worked on brakes for cranes and lifts, which resulted in exposure to asbestos dust through the cutting and drilling of Ferodo brake linings. 

During the last three months of his apprenticeship he worked at Horwich Works where electric trains from throughout the region, including Bury, Altrincham and Ormskirk, were brought for major overhauls.  He stripped out a lot of asbestos panelling to get to electrical equipment to do repairs.   

Another way in which Alan was exposed to asbestos was when working on diesel generators and crane diesels as he used to lag the exhaust pipes with woven asbestos to prevent people touching them and getting burnt.  He also worked with Sindanyo asbestos sheets when carrying out repairs to heaters in cabins.  Alan ’s exposure to asbestos did not end when he was promoted to supervisory roles or even when he was the Acting Area Engineer as he was involved in the clean up operation after a derailment in Eccles in 1984 when he had to go into the train to arrange for photographs to be taken. The carriages had been wrecked and asbestos panelling had been badly damaged.  He had to take measurements of the track and worked amongst the dust and debris. 

When Alan contacted us we made urgent arrangements to attend his home to discuss his work and exposure to asbestos.  He explained that he was suffering from the classic symptoms of mesothelioma, namely, fatigue, chest pain, lack of appetite, night sweats and a persistent cough. 

We acted urgently and formally notified Alan’s former employers of his claim in January 2010.  In February 2010 they accepted responsibility for his disease and he received an advance payment of his compensation in the sum of £50,000.

We started court proceedings against Alan’s former employer in early March 2010 using a specialist fast track system which ensures that mesothelioma cases are dealt with expeditiously.  We negotiated an out of court settlement in early April 2010 and Alan received a six figure sum in damages.

Each mesothelioma case is different and the compensation that a sufferer receives is made up of a variety of different awards known as ‘heads of loss’.  Some of the more interesting and challenging aspects of Alan’s case was the fact he provided care to his wife and mother in law.  His wife suffers from a spinal condition and labaryntitis vertigo, which causes her to have periods when she is very debilitated and unable to maintain her balance.  Prior to his illness Alan used to accompany his wife on most occasions when she went outside.  He also assisted her around the home and with the shopping.  Due to his illness he was unable to continue to provide this care.  We obtained compensation for the cost of the past and future domestic assistance, which was required due to his development of mesothelioma.

Alan also provided substantial care and support to his 96 year old mother in law.  He helped with practical tasks such as shopping, organising her meals and doing DIY around her home.  He also organised her bills, collected her pension and helped her manage her finances.  We included the value of this care and assistance in his claim.  We argued that his inability to continue to provide care to his wife and mother in law, due to his mesothelioma, was a loss which should be compensated as it was of real value to his family’s welfare.  The compensation that Alan has now received will enable him to ensure that his family will be looked after in the future.

When Alan received his advance payment of damages of £50,000 he booked a cruise so that he could spend quality time with his family.  Due to his illness he found that travel insurance costs were extremely high, in the region of £2000.  We included these costs in his claim and negotiated a settlement which covered this additional expense.

We dealt with Alan’s claim under a Conditional Fee Agreement (no win / no fee) so he did not have to worry about funding his claim or expensive legal bills.  He received his compensation in full and at the end of his case he and his wife said “we want to thank you so much for leading us through what has been an extremely difficult time.  The speed of our trauma, from diagnosis to the completion of the case, had been incredible.  We are grateful to you for what you have achieved and for the result.  It is still somewhat surreal, and in a way, unbelievable.”  




We were delighted to resolve Alan’s claim so quickly and admire him for the stoic, dignified and determined way in which he continues to fight his illness. 





Contact details:

Kevin Johnson, Solicitor                    
John Pickering and Partners LLP            
19 Castle Street,
Liverpool L2 4SX.
Telephone: 0151 227 1214                          
E-mail: kj@johnpickering.co.uk                  
Website: www.johnpickering.co.uk                
FREEPHONE: 0800 854201                                  


Mesothelioma is a type of cancer that affects the lining of certain bodily organs.  It most commonly affects the lining of the lungs (the pleura) but it can affect other areas including organs in the abdominal cavity (the peritoneum).

John Pickering and Partners LLP- Specialist mesothelioma compensation solicitors

We are a specialist personal injury law firm.  We have been handling claims for industrial disease for over 30 years.  Most of our work involves acting for asbestos disease victims.

We only act for the sufferers of asbestos diseases and never act for the organisations that caused the asbestos exposure or their insurers.  We have an ethical approach and pledge to donate 10% of our net profits every year to good causes that help asbestos sufferers.  Click here to find out about our donations to good causes.  We have also been involved in most of the landmark judgments that shape this area of law.  Find out more about us or find out about our reported cases.

We are on the panels of several asbestos support groups and are ranked highly by legal guides.  Click here to find out more about what others have said about us.

John Pickering and Partners LLP is a niche legal practice that has represented Claimants in the leading asbestos "test cases" in the last ten years. The firm represented Sylvia Barker in Barker v Corus (UK) Plc, a case that highlighted the legal tactics of employers and insurers trying to cut back their compensation liabilities to mesothelioma sufferers, and which prompted the amendment of the Compensation Act 2006 to ensure full compensation for mesothelioma claims. The firm represented two of the three Claimants in the Fairchild appeal, in which the insurance industry tried unsuccessfully to block compensation altogether for mesothelioma sufferers unable to identify which of two or more sources of asbestos exposure had caused their illness.

The firm represented Alice Jefferson, a mesothelioma sufferer, whose illness and compensation claim against Cape Asbestos were featured in the important documentary "Alice: A Fight For Life."   Shown by Yorkshire Television in July 1982, the programme was an important catalyst for legal change and public awareness of the plight of asbestos disease sufferers and a prompt for important reform.

If you need advice about an asbestos related illness, contact us now for information about making a claim for compensation.