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Asbestos plumber's widow gets compensation

A plumber exposed to asbestos lost his battle for life but this week won a five-year battle for compensation thanks to his wife's persistence.
Daphne Reay, the widow of Keith Reay has received more than £100,000 in compensation in an out-of-court settlement after a five-year legal battle with insurers.

Keith Reay, of Stocksfield, Northumberland, was told he had an asbestos-induced cancer, mesothelioma, in November 2002. He died nine months later aged 52.

Reay was employed as an apprentice plumber by builders J.H. Newman & Sons (Hexham) Ltd for 17 years, between leaving school in 1967 and 1984.

As a plumber and heating engineer, he was exposed to asbestos during the course of his work for J.H. Newman.

The firm went out of business in 1993. By the time Mr Reay was diagnosed with cancer, the company had not been operating for 10 years and documentation identifying the employer's insurer had been destroyed.

Reay contacted solicitors to started the process of finding the insurance company used by his former employers. Before he died he asked his wife Daphne, 55, to carry on fighting for compensation.

JH Newman's insurers was Guardian & Royal Exchange, now Axa, but when contacted, they refused to pay out saying without written evidence or policy numbers the claim couldn't be considered. Written statements from two former JH Newman directors confirming the insurers were Guardian & Royal Exchange did not result in the insurer paying out.

Only on January 9, the day before the case was due to be heard did Axa offer to settle out of court (on the basis that they had found a cover note for 1984, the last year of Mr Reay's employment).

His widow said Keith loved working for JH Newman and did not blame the firm for what happened but had wanted the claim to continue in case any of his former colleagues ended up in the same position.

18 January 2008


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