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Tuesday, 7 May, 2002, 12:13 GMT 13:13 UK
Asbestos victim: My fight
Eddy Matthews
Eddy Matthews has asbestos-related cancer
Three victims of asbestos-related disease are taking their case to the House of Lords to ask for compensation.

Because they were theoretically exposed to asbestos in more than one workplace, the Court of Appeal said that it could not be decided which had caused the illness - so neither was liable.

Eddy Matthews, 54, from Tunbridge Wells in Kent, was actually awarded 155,000 compensation for his mesothelioma in July last year - then left devastated when the Appeal Court took the money away.

Eddy Matthews worked with the asbestos which is now slowly killing him under two employers.

He described one factory as "a terrible place".


You used the ovens you cooked asbestos in to warm your meat pie up for lunch

Eddy Matthews
Even though he was only there for a handful of weeks, a judge ruled that it was likely to have increased his risk of getting the asbestos-related cancer mesothelioma 1000-fold.

He said: "You went to work in the morning, all you had to wear was an apron.

"You worked in this area that was just a haze of dust, filtering through the floorboards from upstairs from where they mixed asbestos and cement together.

"You used the ovens you cooked asbestos in to warm your meat pie up for lunch. It was appalling."

Harmful dust

He and his colleagues assumed, wrongly, that they were working with a harmless form of asbestos.

He said: "I used to come out I was white - it surprises me that my wife hasn't got mesothelioma just from washing my clothes."

When he was diagnosed with mesothelioma, he was told that the cancer was incurable, and began to plan for his family's future without him.


I hadn't actually spent the money mentally, I knew there was a chance we would lose in the Appeal Court

Eddy Matthews
Part of that planning involved compensation from his employers.

However, only months after this was awarded by one court, another took it away.

He said: "I was devastated.

"I hadn't actually spent the money mentally, I knew there was a chance we would lose in the Appeal Court. I was devastated for my family."

The stumbling block is not either of the companies which exposed him to asbestos fibres - but their insurance firms, fighting to avoid millions of pounds in extra payouts to asbestos victims and their families.


It's the insurance companies that are facing massive claims, and they are wriggling to try and get out of paying them

Eddy Matthews
He said: "The employers accept that they contributed. They paid their insurance at the time and they want to do nothing more than step aside.

"But it's the insurance companies that are facing massive claims, and they are wriggling to try and get out of paying them.

"Frankly they're using every trick in the book."

New offer

The latest development involved the insurance companies offering to settle the case with the three principal parties, perhaps stopping a precedent being set in the House of Lords.

Eddy chose to carry on fighting instead.

"I'm fortunate I am still alive and most people in my situation are not here long enough to get this far."

"You take the normal situation where the man has died and the wife is fighting the case - she's just lost her husband, has she got the steel to continue?

"There's very few people who are capable of taking this up.

"I would like to continue it through to the end."

The case is expected to last some weeks, but he is confident of a positive result, both for himself, and hundreds of others in a similar position.

He said: "It is a wrong that needs to be righted.

"In the House of Lords, hopefully that is what we are going to get."

See also:

07 May 02 | A-B
Asbestos disease
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