Judge orders compensation for Norfolk woman with terminal cancer from asbestos exposure

A 77-year-old woman from Norfolk with asbestos-related terminal cancer has been awarded compensation from her employers after the high court ruled she was exposed to asbestos dust during her work as a funeral arranger.

Winifred Goldstone – known as Jill – was diagnosed with mesothelioma, a cancer of the lining of the lung, in April this year after working for over 40 years as a funeral arranger in Heacham.

In the High Court, judgment was given against her current employer Dignity Funerals Ltd who took over the funeral business in 1989. Mrs Goldstone’s employment was then transferred to her new employers, which a judge ruled made them liable for the injury.

She started work at Eric W Witton as a secretary in 1975, before she began arranging funerals at the premises on Station Road, which also contained a workshop for a building business. Mrs Goldstone was also required to clean up the workshop, sweeping up dust from where materials containing asbestos were cut.

In December 2015, she was becoming breathless. In April she was diagnosed with mesothelioma, which is almost exclusively caused by exposure to asbestos.

In his written ruling delivered after a hearing last month Master Davison, the presiding judge, found she was exposed to asbestos through the fabric of the building and the activities of the carpentry business. Dignity argued that liability for Mrs Goldstone’s mesothelioma remained with the carpentry business because that part of the business was not transferred to it in 1989.

The judge also made clear that she was exposed to asbestos through her employment as a funeral arranger, even if the carpentry business had been separate.

Harminder Bains from law firm Leigh Day said:

“My client has worked for 40 years in a job she loved, she has been required throughout that time to do much more than she was paid to do and for her troubles was negligently exposed to asbestos.”

Mrs Goldstone, formerly of Southmoor Drive has now gone to live with one of two daughters in Buckinghamshire.

“Even though I am 77 years old, I very much enjoyed my job, it was my life,” she said. “I knew all the local families they would often come and talk to me about funerals I had arranged for a family member years ago. I am devastated to have to give that up.”

The compensation amount will be decided at a hearing on December 15. Dignity declined to comment.