As­bestos kiss poi­soned my wife, claims car worker su­ing for £1m

The Daily Telegraph - - News - By Daily Tele­graph Re­porter

A CAR worker who be­lieves as­bestos dust in his mous­tache and cloth­ing poi­soned his late wife is su­ing his for­mer em­ploy­ers for £1mil­lion.

John Carey, 60, says that from the day he met wife Ly­dia in 1976, she breathed in as­bestos fi­bres trapped on his body and cloth­ing.

He es­caped with­out be­com­ing ill, but Ly­dia died, aged 60, on Nov 27 this year from as­bestos-linked lung cancer, the High Court heard.

As­bestos fi­bres were trans­mit­ted from hus­band to wife dur­ing the ha­bit­ual rit­u­als of daily life, said John-paul Swo­boda, Mr Carey’s bar­ris­ter.

“All through the pe­riod she and John Carey would hug and kiss upon see­ing one an­other,” Mr Swo­boda told Judge Karen Walden-smith.

“As well as the as­bestos on his clothes, Mr Carey had a full head of hair, a mous­tache and side­burns in which as­bestos dust would be trapped un­til lib­er­ated by move­ment from – say – a hug.”

Mr Carey, from Tod­ding­ton, Beds, is claim­ing dam­ages from Vaux­hall Mo­tors, at whose Lu­ton and Dun­sta­ble sites he worked at be­tween 1973 and 1979.

The car firm de­nies that Mr Carey had been ex­posed to hazardous amounts of as­bestos while he was work­ing for Vaux­hall or that he would have “dis­turbed as­bestos in the fab­ric of the build­ing”.

Mr Swo­boda told the court that as­bestos fi­bres lay dor­mant in Mrs Carey’s body for 40 years be­fore she de­vel­oped lung cancer.

She was di­ag­nosed in Oc­to­ber 2017 with mesothe­lioma, an in­cur­able cancer no­to­ri­ous for the agony suf­fered by its vic­tims.

Vaux­hall con­tends that all as­bestosre­lated work at the plants was done by spe­cial­ist ex­ter­nal con­trac­tors and it op­er­ated an over­alls wash­ing scheme for its em­ploy­ees.

How­ever, Mr Swo­boda claimed that the com­pany had charged ex­tra for the laun­dry ser­vice. He also in­sisted that Mr Carey worked in prox­im­ity to as­bestos dust.

The cou­ple mar­ried in 1978, the court heard, and Mrs Carey reg­u­larly washed her hus­band’s work over­alls.

His work clothes were at times “black with dust”, Mr Swo­boda added, which even pen­e­trated into the tur­nups of his trousers.

“Once mar­ried, Mr Carey would change from his work clothes when he came home so as not to make the house dirty,” the bar­ris­ter added.

“Mrs Carey would knock and brush the dust off his work clothes, and she re­mem­bered wash­ing his blue over­alls.”

Much of Mr Carey’s work was car­ried on at Vaux­hall’s Dun­sta­ble plant, and Mr Swo­boda claimed the fac­tory was pol­luted by “huge quan­ti­ties of as­bestos”.

He worked along­side men re­mov­ing or ap­ply­ing as­bestos lag­ging to pipes, and he re­called see­ing work­ers mix­ing as­bestos pow­der to paste.

At times he had to “walk through, kneel or lie on as­bestos dust and de­bris on the floor to carry out his work”, the bar­ris­ter claimed.

“He swept as­bestos dust and de­bris from the floor us­ing a dust­pan and brush”.

Mr Carey claims Vaux­hall ne­glected to warn him of the dan­gers which are linked to as­bestos and says the com­pany should have pro­vided him with pro­tec­tive equip­ment.

Mrs Carey’s in­di­rect ex­po­sure to dust and fi­bres over a three-year win­dow be­tween 1976 and 1979 was enough for as­bestos to do its deadly work, ar­gued Mr Swo­boda.

How­ever, Paul Bleas­dale, Vaux­hall’s QC, sug­gested there were other pos­si­ble sources for Mrs Carey’s ill­ness.

Even if Mr Carey was ex­posed to as­bestos when work­ing for Vaux­hall, it would have been “very oc­ca­sional if not min­i­mal”, he added.

The case con­tin­ues.

‘He had a full head of hair, mous­tache and side­burns in which as­bestos dust would be trapped’

John Carey with his wife Ly­dia, who died from an in­cur­able lung cancer

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