Asbestos widow’s appeal to former mining colleagues of Florence Colliery


A local woman whose husband died from an asbestos related illness has launched a search for his former colleagues in the hope that they can help shed some light on what caused this deadly condition.

Ernest Taylor passed away in 2008, shortly before his 80th birthday. Now, his wife Felicia is determined to get justice for her late husband and has launched a claim against his former employers - the Florence Colliery in Stoke-on –Trent where Ernest worked as a miner before it closed in 1990.

Mesothelioma is the most serious form of lung cancer – caused by contact with asbestos. Although it can take a decade to appear it is almost always fatal.

Ernest Taylor died of malignant mesothelioma in September 2008, just 3 months after he was diagnosed while on holiday in Wales.

"We were staying at our caravan in Conwy for the summer when I noticed that Ernest was short of breath and struggling to complete the simplest tasks," explained Felicia. "After persuading him to visit a GP he was referred to hospital where he had a biopsy. A week later we were told that he had mesothelioma. He stayed in hospital until they told us he didn’t have long to live – as he wanted to spend his final days with his family he was moved home with us for his final 2 weeks."

Ernest worked for the National Coal Board for over 40 years. He was employed at the former Florence Colliery as a face worker, mining coal in the pits and undertaking haulage work, moving materials into the pits and pit face. There were times when he was sent to work in the bunkers of the pit which were lagged with asbestos.

Felicia added: "He would come home covered in dust, and he and his colleagues spent their entire shifts in the pit, even during lunch. I am sure that they came into contact with asbestos on a regular basis whilst working at the Florence Colliery."

"My husband was always fit and healthy; we would take long walks, go shopping, he even played the occasional round of golf with ease. He loved spending time with our grandchildren and was very active – when he was diagnosed it was a complete shock."

Ricki James, assistant solicitor specialising in industrial disease at Simpson Millar LLP is representing Felicia. She is concerned that Ernest’s widow may not receive the compensation she deserves:

"What happened to Ernest is a tragedy and one that is regularly repeated all over the country. Men and women who have worked hard their entire lives are struck down with a devastating illness for which there is no cure and often a very short life expectancy."

"We know Ernest worked with asbestos whilst at the Florence Colliery, and from his condition we are almost certain that other people will have suffered the same fate in silence. Felicia and I are urging anyone who worked at the mines that may have witnessed the use of asbestos at any point to get in touch. "

"It may be too late to save Mr Taylor’s life but appropriate compensation will at least help secure Felicia’s future and that of others in the same boat."

But as Felicia fights for compensation, confusion lies ahead for sufferers of asbestos related illnesses. Last week saw the Court of Appeal overturn a 2008 High Court decision that entitled victims of asbestos poisoning to compensation from their old employers’ insurance. Insurers also continue to quibble over whether or not they should answer such calls for compensation because no symptoms were shown at the time of the asbestos exposure. And last week three Court of Appeal judges were unable to agree on who should be held liable.

Ricki added:

"At the moment, because mesothelioma and other conditions take decades to develop, people diagnosed with these terrible illnesses have to trace the insurer of former employers to launch a claim."

"Making a claim for asbestos related illnesses is already a long, trying process and this latest decision by the Court of Appeal will only add further confusion and heartache – leading to a sporadic selection of who is entitled to compensation and who isn’t."

"We won’t give up fighting for the money that these victims deserve and the more people come forward the stronger our case for justice."

Anyone who worked or had a relative employed by the former Florence Colliery between 1940 and 1990 and is willing to help Felicia should contact:

Ricki James on: 0345 357 9000.

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