An former electrician at Vauxhall Motors who claims he unknowingly poisoned his wife with asbestos dust while they hugged and kissed as a young couple is suing for £1 million over her death.
Lydia Carey’s husband John, 60, believes she breathed in asbestos fibres hidden in his work overalls, hair and moustache during the early part of their 40-year marriage.
He escaped unharmed but Lydia died aged just 60 in late November 2018, after losing a fight against the asbestos-linked cancer mesothelioma, the High Court was told. Mr Carey is suing Vauxhall Motors, claiming his exposure to asbestos while working at its sites in Luton and Dunstable between 1976 and 1979 was the cause of his wife’s death.
His barrister John-Paul Swoboda told the court fibres lay dormant in Lydia Carey’s body for 40 years before she developed lung cancer.
Lydia was diagnosed in October 2017 with mesothelioma, an incurable cancer notorious for the agony suffered by its victims, and was just 60 when she died in later November.
Vauxhall says all asbestos-related work at the plants was done by specialist external contractors and it operated an overalls washing scheme for its employees. They are fighting the case, suggesting other causes denying that Mr Carey was exposed to hazardous amounts of asbestos and insisting specialist contractors were brought in to deal with the deadly fibres.
The court heard Mrs Carey regularly washed her husband’s work overalls which were “black with dust”. He worked alongside men removing or applying asbestos lagging to pipes, and he recalled seeing workers mixing asbestos powder to paste.
His barrister continued;
“As well as the asbestos on his clothes, Mr Carey had a full head of hair, a moustache and sideburns in which asbestos dust would be trapped until liberated by movement from, say, a hug.”
Mr Carey insists the Dunstable plant where he worked was polluted by “huge quantities of asbestos” and at times he had to “walk through, kneel or lie on asbestos dust on the floor to carry out his work”, added Mr Swoboda.
Paul Bleasdale QC, representing Vauxhall, argued Mr Carey’s exposure to asbestos at Vauxhall was “very occasional if not minimal”, and suggested Mrs Carey might have been exposed at other times during her husband’s working life — or by contact with her father, who also worked with asbestos during her childhood.
Speaking outside court, Mr Carey said his wife’s diagnosis in October 2017 came “completely out of the blue”. The case continues.