Leonard Faram, 83, from Rainham in Essex, lost his wife Annette in 2015, after she contracted mesothelioma from washing his work overalls.

Leonard worked at the London Docks as a lighterman under the National Dock Labour Board Scheme between 1959 and 1969, moving raw asbestos fibres from the ships in the London Docks along the Thames to the Cape Asbestos factory at Barking. 

Annette, who was a housewife and mother to David and Paula, spent much of the period looking after the children at home. As part of her household chores, she would regularly wash Leonard’s work clothes, which would be covered in asbestos dust. 

"Annette and Leonard had no idea that mesothelioma and other asbestos diseases could be contracted through second-hand contact but it is a real and life-limiting reality for far too many families in Essex."

Lorna Webster
specialist asbestos solicitor, Thompsons Solicitors

In August 2012, Annette felt unwell and eventually went to A&E where she was found to have a serious build-up of fluid on her lung. Leonard knew of some of the symptoms and mentioned to the doctors his previous work with asbestos. In November 2012, Annette was diagnosed with mesothelioma.

Leonard said: “I worked day in, day out with bags of asbestos on the barges, and even in those days we workers were suspicious it was causing health problems but we were basically told we were making a fuss.  As time went on I became involved with my union in the fight to stop the workforce being in contact with asbestos.

“I have known for many years that I am at risk of developing an asbestos related condition because of my work as a lighterman.  However, I had never considered that my work could cause the premature death of my wife, who had been a very fit and healthy woman right up to when the mesothelioma symptoms first developed. Had it not been for my own personal knowledge about the dangers of asbestos, as someone who has seen far too many ex-colleagues develop mesothelioma many years after their work ceased, we would never have known what to do or where to go.

“After Annette’s diagnosis we spoke to Lorna at Thompsons Solicitors, who was so supportive and pursued our claim ferociously. It was a relief to have someone who we could turn to locally who is a real specialist and also knows the area and its industrial history inside out. She did not stop fighting for us.”

Thompsons Solicitors secured a six-figure sum for Leonard and Annette before she passed away in 2015.

Lorna said: “Annette and Leonard had no idea that mesothelioma and other asbestos diseases could be contracted through second-hand contact but it is a real and life-limiting reality for far too many families in Essex.

“In this case we were able to pursue a claim against a government organisation because of the employment Scheme Leonard worked under at the Docks.  It is only because Leonard worked there so long that we were able to pursue a claim. Currently the law – which is grossly unfair - only allows us to pursue claims for secondary exposure from overalls if that exposure happened after 1965. This despite the fact that I know from the cases I see all the time that asbestos was used just as much, if not more, in the late 1950s and early 1960s.”