Mesothelioma Widow Wins Settlement Against Cigarette Filter Maker

The widow of a longtime factory worker who died from mesothelioma, the cancer caused by asbestos, has finally been vindicated by a court of law.
Allan Bickle, 58, was diagnosed with this debilitating respiratory disease in 2008.

He filed suit against the company Filtrona, where he had worked for over 25 years manufacturing cigarette filters. Bickle and his wife, June, claimed that he was exposed to asbestos at the Filtrona factory without adequate warning of, or protection from, the hazards of the mineral material. Filtrona initially denied the allegations, but after a coroner’s inquest that concluded Bickle died from the asbestos-related cancer, the company abandoned its defense.

The High Court ordered judgment to be entered against Filtrona. June Bickle was awarded an interim payment of £50,000. Asbestos, once widely used throughout the manufacturing industry as a non-conductive, non-flammable insulating material, is also highly toxic to humans when its fibers are ingested. Too microscopic to be filtered out by the lungs, they eventually penetrate a sheath covering the lungs and other organs, known as the mesothelium.

This membrane helps protect the organs by producing a fluid that lubricates them during normal movement. Mesothelioma is the name given to a diffuse, wide-spreading tumor which forms when the asbestos fibers cause cellular damage in the mesothelium. It is particularly difficult to surgically remove, and tends to be resistant to chemotherapy and radiation, as well.

Most patients die within two years of receiving a diagnosis of this cancer. Mesothelioma most commonly occurs in the pleura—the lining around the lung—but can also strike the linings of the heart and the stomach, where it is known respectively as pericardial mesothelioma and peritoneal mesothelioma. Approximately 3,000 new cases of mesothelioma cancer are diagnosed annually in the U.K.