In Remembrance of Dianne Willmore 

by Laurie Kazan-Allen

 

 

Dianne Willmore was a private person who did not seek the limelight. She was a 49-year-old mother of two who had no interest in becoming a campaigning figure. The mesothelioma diagnosis she received changed all that. When she understood the importance of the link between her asbestos cancer and schoolday exposure to asbestos, she agreed for details of her case to be made public to help others who might be similarly affected.1

The Willmore case revolved around the concept of low level exposures to asbestos, an issue which is hotly contested. Defendants, such as Knowsley Metropolitan Borough Council, allege that such exposures are “de minimis,” or, in other words, not significant enough to warrant compensation. Fortunately, Mr. Justice Nicol's High Court judgment found that the asbestos exposure Ms. Willmore suffered as a secondary school pupil at Page Moss Comprehensive School (later renamed Bowring Comprehensive) from 1972 to 1979, materially contributed to her risk of contracting mesothelioma. Circumstances the judge cited in the ruling handed down on July 24, 2009, were:

  • work done to the ceiling in the T shaped corridor and the temporary stacking there of ceiling tiles (some of which were broken or chipped) over a few days;
  • damage to ceiling tiles by the misbehavior of pupils removing and pushing bags and items of clothing up into the ceiling void;
  • vandalism in the girls' toilets in the Junior Block and the storage of damaged tiles there for a period of about two weeks.

Justice Nicol found the defendant guilty of a breach of duty and the sum of 240,000 was awarded to the claimant who, in April 2009, had a life expectancy of less than 6 months. On September 22, 2009, Lord Justice Moses granted Knowsley Metropolitan Borough Council permission to appeal; an urgent hearing was ordered due to the deterioration of Ms. Willmore's health. At the end of the appeal, which was heard on October 14, 2009 in London, the Court announced that the appeal had been rejected. There was little time to savor this victory; the next day, Dianne Willmore passed away.

Paying tribute to her client Solicitor Ruth Davies said:

“Dianne and her family were devastated by the diagnosis but she carried on living life to the full. She was a great lady with a good sense of humour, a love of the outdoors and a thirst for life. Throughout the legal proceedings, she remained determined to force those responsible for this tragedy to be held liable for their actions. Dianne did not want to die; she wanted more time with her partner, children, family and friends. But for the asbestos she had been exposed to, she might have had another 40 years.”

October 15, 2009

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1 Dianne Willmore vs. Knowsley Metropolitan Borough Council

 

 

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