Dying widow who caught cancer from washing her husband's clothes wins landmark legal case
A widow who caught the same asbestos-related cancer that killed her husband by washing his clothes has won a landmark legal case.
North Cheam woman Monica Haxton cared for her husband Ronald as he died from mesothelioma, a cancer he contracted as a result of exposure to asbestos dust during a career with Philips Electronics in Balham, only to find out she contracted the same illness.
Now she says she can concentrate on spending the time she has left with her family after she won a £700,000 legal case in the Court of Appeal.
The mum-of-four and grandmother-of-eight worked with lawyers Irwin Mitchell to secure just over £700,000 compensation after Mr Haxton died aged 64 in 2009.
But just as she was trying to rebuild her life in 2011, the 66-year-old was diagnosed with the same incurable disease after inhaling asbestos dust that came off Mr Haxton's clothes as she washed them years ago.
Mr Haxton would return home from days dismantling boilers covered in asbestos dust but Philips never warned him of the dangers of the carcinogenic substance.
The pair did not have a washing machine so Mrs Haxton would wash the clothes by hand, sometimes there would be so much dust it would clog the pipes.
Mr and Mrs Haxton on their wedding day
Lawyers for Philips tried to argue that Mrs Haxton, who had to give up a job as a clerk at St Anthony's Hospital in North Cheam, should not be entitled to a substantial further settlement as her life expectancy was now shorter - an assessment the High Court agreed with.
But three Appeal Court judges overturned that decision yesterday entitling her to a further £200,000.
Mrs Haxton, of St Margaret's Avenue, said: "Ronald and I were married for 45 years and he worked there for 42 years but the negligence of that company by failing to protect us from asbestos exposure has ruined both our lives.
"We were absolutely devastated by Ronald’s diagnosis and I cared for him until his final breath so I know the pain and horror that this terrible disease causes and that I am now suffering.
"It’s also incredibly hard for my children knowing that they are going to have to watch me deteriorate over the coming months.
"I was determined to fight for justice to the end because neither Ronald nor I had any control over contracting this horrendous disease. His employers had a duty to warn Ronald of the dangers of asbestos exposure and provide him with protective clothing but they failed to do either.
"I am now relieved and have peace of mind that my children and grandchildren will have financial stability after I am gone and I can now concentrate fully on my family and make the most of the time I have left with them. I now finally feel that justice has been done."
Nicola Maier of Irwin Mitchell heralded the ruling as a "landmark" and said it is a restoration of justice for families.
She added: "This is an absolutely tragic case and fully demonstrates the devastating consequences exposure to asbestos can have on the wider family. It does not just affect industrial workers.
"Just as Monica was beginning to come to terms with the loss of Ronald and began rebuilding her life, she too was diagnosed with the very same illness that she had watched slowly destroy her husband’s life.
"Monica is undergoing chemotherapy treatment and knows she will need a significant amount of care as her condition deteriorates but the insurers refused to acknowledge this and agree a fair settlement.
"They were using the consequences of the company’s own negligence as a reason to try to reduce Monica’s settlement which is deeply unfair and thankfully common sense has prevailed."
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