Eastbourne widow to sue council over asbestos death

Susan Beck
Susan Beck

AN EASTBOURNE schoolteacher was killed by asbestos dust on history books, according to his widow who is suing Ratton School for £250,000.

Susan Beck has launched a legal battle after her husband Neville died from malignant mesothelioma, a cancer of the lining of the lungs linked to asbestos.

Mrs Beck alleges the cancer was caused by inhaling deadly asbestos dust at the school in Park Lane.

Mr Beck, who was 71 when he died, was head of history at Ratton School in Eastbourne between 1972 and 1998, and kept his books and teaching equipment in a large cupboard with two asbestos shelves, according to a High Court writ.

He had to wipe dust from books when he took them out of the classroom cupboard, and also worked on a fixed table in another room which was covered in a sheet of asbestos, the writ says.

Father of one Mr Beck first suffered symptoms of mesothelioma, a painful and terminal cancer, around 19 months before his death on April 14 2009.

He developed breathlessness followed by complications with his blood supplies, and underwent various medical procedures.

Mr Beck needed much care from his wife in the final months of his life, and lost years of life expectancy, the court will hear.

Mrs Beck, and fellow executor Zoe Pilkington, are suing East Sussex County Council, the local education authority which runs the school, for compensation.

Mrs Beck, who lives in Kings Drive, Eastbourne, brands the council as ‘negligent ‘and says her husband was exposed to a major risk of fatal injury through breathing asbestos dust from the cupboard.

She claims the council failed to protect him from asbestos, and failed to warn him about the risks he ran.

She also claims they failed to give him breathing apparatus when he was teaching or preparing to teach, and allowed him to use the cupboard knowing that it was unsafe.

The writ also alleges the council negligently failed to remove the asbestos shelves and asbestos topped desk, failed to damp down dry asbestos, and failed to provide him with a safe place and system of work.

Mr Beck did most of his teaching in classroom room 3, also called GT3, which contained a cupboard stretching from floor to ceiling with two asbestos shelves, the court will hear.

He moved items in and out of the cupboard several times a day, but the cupboard was locked outside lessons, and cleaners did not access it, court documents say.

The writ was issued by solicitor Caroline Pinfold of Irwin Mitchell.