A stonemason who developed an occupational lung disease after he was exposed to silica dust at work has received compensation more than 13 years after he was diagnosed, and despite previous solicitors turning his case down.

John Whittaker, 65, from York suffers from the disabling lung condition silicosis which has left him breathless and unable to walk long distances.

Despite clearly suffering from an occupational disease his case for compensation was turned down by the solicitors he first instructed in 2008.

But now, after gaining a second opinion and then instructing Thompsons Solicitors, he has received a six figure settlement from his former employers.

Mr Whittaker was exposed to the dust whilst working for William Anelay Ltd from 1970 to 2008. During his time with the company he was never warned about the risks of stone dust to his health.

Even after he was told he was suffering from scarring on the lungs in 1998 he continued to work in a dangerous environment without protection.

Diagnosed with silicosis

His condition became acute in 2008 and he was diagnosed with silicosis. He was forced to leave his job. At that point he decided to instruct solicitors to claim compensation.

The solicitors he first approached told him his case would fail because the case was outside the three year limitation period for making a claim.

The impact of the condition has seen Mr Whittaker unable to work since 2008 at a time when he had hoped to be earning towards his retirement. He has been told the disease has shortened his life expectancy by five years and he suffers from depression.

Not believing that his employers could do this to him and get away with it Mr Whittaker decided to seek a second opinion from disease specialists Thompsons Solicitors where solicitor Oliver Collett advised him that, contrary to his earlier advice, there was in fact a strong chance he could successfully claim damages.

Thompsons' argument was that Mr Whittaker’s condition had become much more serious in 2008 and the three year limitation period should run from that date.

Thompsons Solicitors made claim for compensation

Thompsons made a claim for compensation and William Anelay Ltd’s insurers admitted liability and settled the claim out of court on a provisional damages basis which means that If Mr Whittaker’s condition worsens he will be able to claim further compensation.

Mr Whittaker said: “I’m delighted. Thompsons took on and won my claim when the first firm of lawyers said there was no hope. I felt real anger and despair when I got turned down initially as my exposure to silica dust was clear and its connection to my condition was beyond doubt and yet I was told there was nothing I could do for my ruined health and lost wages.

“Thompsons took a different view and they have done a fantastic job. It’s a great weight off my shoulders to know that we are now financially secure in my retirement.”

Oliver Collett from Thompsons Solicitors added: “When Mr Whittaker initially came to us we were shocked his case had been turned down by another law firm. It was clear to us that he had a strong case and it was a matter of trying every legal avenue available to us to ensure that he was compensated for his massively disabling condition.

“Thompsons' years of experience in occupational disease cases including exposure to asbestos and chemicals paid off for Mr Whittaker. It is cases like these that highlight how important it is to instruct solicitors with specialist expertise.”