Heartbroken widow Eileen Ford is helping her husband fight justice from the grave as she takes on his ex-employer Teesside chemical giant ICI in a legal battle, reports the Evening Gazette.
Eileen’s husband James died within two months of being diagnosed with an asbestos-related cancer and she believes his working conditions with the paint specialist could be to blame.
Now Eileen is appealing to her widow’s former colleagues for information about working conditions at the firm’s plant in Cleveland, after his sudden death from the asbestos-related cancer, mesothelioma.
She lost her husband of 53 years, James Ford, in August last year, less than two months after he was diagnosed with the terminal cancer caused by exposure to harmful asbestos dust decades before.
Eileen, 73, of New Marske, instructed expert asbestos-related disease lawyers at Irwin Mitchell after her husband told her that he had been exposed to the deadly substance during his employment at ICI Wilton in Cleveland.
James, known as Jim or Jimmy to friends and family, who died aged 74, worked for the company from 1974 to 1992, starting as a packer and fork lift truck driver, before becoming a process operator and ultimately held the position of shift production supervisor.
During his employment, Jim worked across numerous plants, including the Polythene Plant and Polypropylene Plants 2, 3 and 5, in which Jim believed the pumps, valves and pipework systems to all be lagged with asbestos.
ICI employed locally at its sixties peak 20,000 at Wilton and 16,000 in Billingham.
Eileen, mother of Julie and Stephen, said:
“I am a small person fighting a big company, battling for justice for Jim who died too early. It was horrible. He was in the wrong place at the wrong time.
I urge any of Jim’s former colleagues to come forward with any details of the working conditions at the ICI Wilton plants during the time of Jim’s employment there.
Jim was sports mad. He played football until he was 60 and regularly played golf, tennis and bowls but his illness took hold so quickly, there was very little time to get answers or justice for him while he was alive.
Jim was convinced that asbestos was present in the plants he worked on at ICI Wilton. He would often return home covered in dust which we now believe was asbestos dust. So if anyone who used to work with Jim, or at the ICI Wilton plants between 1974 and 1992, can provide information that would be helpful to the legal team at Irwin Mitchell, it would mean a lot to me and my family”.
Jim first began to feel unwell in April last year, and was diagnosed with mesothelioma on June 28. It was decided at the time that his health had deteriorated to a level where he was deemed not strong enough to endure chemotherapy, and on July 25 Jim was admitted to Teesside Hospice, where he stayed until he passed away on August 25.
ICI made paints and speciality products, including food ingredients, speciality polymers, electronic materials, fragrances and flavourings. It was acquired by AkzoNobel in 2008, which immediately sold parts of ICI to Henkel, and integrated ICI’s remaining operations within its existing organisation.
Roger Maddocks, a partner and expert industrial disease lawyer at Irwin Mitchell, said:
“Unfortunately, we often see cases like Jim’s where victims were unaware they were battling mesothelioma until the very end of their lives.
Mesothelioma is an extremely aggressive, unforgiving, and sadly terminal cancer caused by asbestos exposure decades before symptoms develop. All too often we see a case like this where workers spent time working in environments where they were exposed to asbestos dust and were not made aware, by their employers, of the dangers of asbestos dust.
Anyone with information about working conditions at the ICI Wilton plants in Teesside, particularly anyone who may remember working with Jim, should contact us as soon as possible.”
A spokeswoman for the group handling claims for the former ICI business said:
“We can confirm that the claim from Mr Ford’s wife has been received by the company and is being dealt with appropriately.”