Former merchant seaman wins asbestos compensation

Former merchant seaman wins asbestos compensation 25657

A former merchant seaman has been awarded a £38,000 asbestos compensation after developing a work related asbestos disease.

Michael Hopekirk, 70, of St Leonards, retired in 2006 but was previously a skipper and engineer on merchant navy ships, according to the Hastings Observer.

The pensioner claims when ships went out to sea in bad weather, he frequently breathed in asbestos and despite these risks, none of the people on board the boats were given masks or protective clothing.

Two years after his retirement, Mr Hopekirk started to have breathing difficulties and was told he had developed diffuse pleural thickening in his lungs. This condition is common among people who were regularly exposed to asbestos in their working life.

But now, just days before a court was due to hand down its verdict on whether his disease was the fault of his various employers, three firms he sued have agreed a joint settlement. 

Clipper Wondild Tankers UK (previously known as Crescent Shipping), Tower Shipping and Mardorf Peach came together to award Mr Hopekirk £38,000 in redress from extensive pain and suffering caused by their respective inaction on asbestos exposure.

Mr Hopekirk's lawyer and spokesperson said: "This was a difficult case because Mr Hopekirk worked with so many different companies and most of them were no longer in existence. It took considerable research to find the insurance details for the different companies.

"If he had to do any repair work he had to chisel off the asbestos from the pipes in the boiler room which again caused asbestos to rise in the air."

A number of firms are being forced to provide compensation for former workers exposed to carcinogenic asbestos dust during their time in employment, but it is often very difficult to get money out of the responsible parties because many will have gone bankrupt or have gone through complex take-over processes.

However, if a firm acquires a company found to have been liable of poor working practices, it legally assumes blame and must pay adequate compensation.

By Francesca Witney