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 Thompsons Solicitors, who were so supportive and pursued our claim ferociously. It was a relief to have a solicitor 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.”
The solicitor that dealt with Annette and Leonard’s claim added: “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.”