Cancer victim sues Sheffield Council for £273,000 over asbestos poisoning

Sheffield City Council is facing a £273,000 court claim from a painter and decorator who claims his terminal cancer was caused by exposure to asbestos.

Tuesday, 10th August 2021, 10:00 am

Malcolm Dibnah, 70, is suffering from malignant mesothelioma, which is expected cut his life short by around 17 years.

He blames this on his former employer, claiming Sheffield Council exposed him to deadly asbestos dust and fibres when he worked for it as a painter and decorator between 1966 and 2004.

His work involved scraping and sanding down asbestos fascias on council houses before painting them, which made large amounts of asbestos dust enter his breathing zone, according to a writ issued in London’s High Court and recently made publicly available.

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Malcolm Dibnah says he was exposed to asbestos while working for Sheffield Council

This practice changed in the late 1980s when he was told to simply paint over the fascias and not to rub them down, he says.

But the writ claims that before then he was exposed to asbestos in the sixties and seventies on building sites while working alongside joiners who were cutting and fitting Asbestolux sheets, some of which he sanded down and painted for airing cupboards.

From time to time he had to strip asbestos-containing Artex from council properties, which raised large amounts of dust into his breathing zone, he says.

Mr Dibnah first suffered symptoms of breathlessness, coughing, night sweats, back pain, weight loss and fatigue in January 2020, and in February last year fluid was drained from one lung.

He was diagnosed with malignant mesothelioma and was treated with chemotherapy last summer, which caused unpleasant side effects. He started immunotherapy in October 2020, but continues to suffer from fatigue, chest ache, and breathlessness.

He may be able to undergo more treatment, but the prognosis is for increasing breathlessness, pain debility, and dependence on others until his premature death, the court will hear.

He accuses the council of negligence and says it exposed him to asbestos when it knew it was potentially harmful to his death, failed to provide him with suitable protective equipment, information and training about the risks, and failed to ensure its premises were kept free from asbestos dust.

The council also negligently failed to monitor his exposure to asbestos and keep proper records, failed to run a safe system of work, and failed to make and keep his workplaces safe, the writ says.