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Man’s family make claim over his death from asbestos-related disease

Friday, September 20th, 2013

A statement given by a man five months before he died has been used as the basis for a compensation claim arising from the fact that the illness which claimed his life was caused by working with asbestos.

The claim was presented before a tribunal by the family of John Perris who was killed by asbestos poisoning after spending a decade dismantling and selling on asbestos sheets which had been sold to his father’s business by BXL Plastics. Herts Coroners court was told that the actual sale of the sheets took place back in 1967, although Mr Perris, of Westbrook Hay, Hemel Hempstead, bought the business with his sister in 1974.

The statement, which had been written and signed by Mr Perris, was presented to the court by Alison Greif, the assistant coroner for Herts. The details of the case were that the asbestos sheets had been sold by BXL after they were left over following the construction of the ocean liner the QE2, having been used in the construction of external walls.

Perris Plastics purchased between 200 and 250 of the sheets and, to make them ready to be sold on, Mr Perris had to cut between 10 and 20 per cent of them in half, since they originally measured six feet by eight feet.

The court was told that the saw Mr Perris used did not feature a dust extractor, and that the suppliers didn’t provide any advice as to how to deal with asbestos safety, or indeed a warning that it was dangerous and that a face mask ought to be worn.

As part of his statement, Mr Perris gave a vivid description of what happened when he sawed the boards, saying: “I remember the first time that we cut one of these sheets. The shutters of our warehouse were open and I was right next to the saw. The dust created a thick mist in the air and we all ran out coughing.”

The inquest was also told on Wednesday that the dust was so thick that Mr Perris had to open all of the windows in the warehouse and leave the building as quickly as possible after cutting each sheet. Indeed, the court was told that after 30 minutes the air still hadn’t cleared completely, and that the boards were only ever cut at 4.30 pm so that the dust had until the next working day to settle.

Having examined the evidence, Ms Greif ruled that Mr Perris had been killed by an industrial disease, namely mesothelioma, a rare type of cancer usually brought about by exposure to asbestos. The final diagnosis did not arrive until the 27th December last year, when Mr Perris was 74 years old.

Ms Greif also pointed out that Mr Perris had been a heavy smoker for several decades and that Ischaemic heart disease and chronic renal impairment had also contributed in some way to his death. Mr Perris ultimately passed away in the Hospice of St Francis, Northchurch on June 23rd this year, after suffering from breathlessness and chest pain.

Speaking after the inquest, his wife, Valerie, aged 74, said: “He enjoyed crosswords and any sort of puzzle and had a terrific brain,” whilst Angela, his 44 year old daughter, added: “He was very lively and had a passion for golf and bridge. He was larger than life and the life and soul of the party.”

The family are now suing the company who provided the sheets for compensation

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