Historic victory after dad's death in asbestos-link cancer tragedy

RECORD damages of £175,000 have been awarded to the family of a Clyde shipyard worker who died of an asbestos-related cancer.

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  • John McCarn was exposed to asbestos fibres during the five years he worked at Scott's yard in Greenock
    John McCarn was exposed to asbestos fibres during the five years he worked at Scott's yard in Greenock
  • John McCarn was exposed to asbestos fibres during the five years he worked at Scott's yard in Greenock
  • John McCarn was exposed to asbestos fibres during the five years he worked at Scott's yard in Greenock

A judge awarded each of John McCarn's five children £35,000 after accepting the family was robbed of at least another 18 years with their dad.

John, of Greenock, worked for Scott's Shipbuilding and Engineering in the town for just five years as an apprentice from the age of 14.

But John, who has 11 grandchildren, wasn't diagnosed until January 2009, when he was told he had malignant mesothelioma and had only months to live.

His distraught daughter Catherine, 35, spoke for the first time about her anger and grief for her dad, who took over the role of both parents after her mum died of cancer when she was a teenager.

Before his death at the age of just 69 in November 2009, John launched legal action against the shipbuilder, which closed down in 1993.

But it has taken his family five years of fighting to get Vince Cable, Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills, who is responsible for the rights and responsibilities of the former British shipbuilders, to admit liability.

At the Court of Session in Edinburgh, Lord Bannatyne ruled that life expectancy was a "significant factor" in the assessment of compensation.

Mum-of-one Catherine insisted, "no amount of money" could ever compensate for the loss of her dad.

The 35-year-old, who is getting married soon, said it was, "heartbreaking," that her dad won't be there to walk her down the isle.

Catherine wept as she recalled how her fit and healthy dad rapidly went downhill after the cancer diagnosis.

She said: "I will never get over his death. He was everything to me - no amount of money can ever bring him back.

"My dad didn't want to die, he wasn't ready.

"His death was the most awful, painful thing ever and I had to watch this proud, fit and healthy man crumble in front of me.

My dad was a very active man who was always walking, cycling and swimming but his health deteriorated so quickly.

"He lost weight and then one morning he couldn't even swim the length of the pool.

"He went to the doctor in November 2008 and he died a year later. That's how quick it was.

"I am the only girl in the family, and the youngest, and my dad took over as a father and mother figure when my mum died when I was 19. We were so close, there was so much love between us.

"To think that he won't be there to walk me down the aisle is just heartbreaking. He was the most wonderful dad and grandad.

"My dad was fitter than me and he would have had a long life ahead of him."

Catherine and her four brothers Joseph, 45, Paul, 42, Robert, 41, and Stephen, 40, who all live in Dublin, carried on John's fight for justice through the Scottish courts, backed by Thompsons Solicitors in Glasgow.

She said: "When my dad found out it was working at the Greenock shipyard that was killing him he was angry, disgusted and felt it was totally unfair he was being robbed of his life through no fault of his own.

"He was just gutted.

"He wanted those responsible for his death brought justice."

The McCarn's lawyer Craig Smilie, of Thompsons, said: "The decision by the Court of Session to award Mr McCarn's family this high level of compensation is very important as it recognises they had their father taken from them far sooner than he should have been.

"Were it not for his exposure to asbestos in the Clyde shipyards John would have lived for 18 more years.

"The premature loss of a loving father and grandfather was devastating to the family and its only right the Scottish courts recognised that."

janice.burns@ eveningtimes.co.uk

Families

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