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Dorset Widower Awarded £650K In Damages

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11:02am 25th July 2014

The husband of a Dorset mother of three who died after years of exposure to asbestos at a Dorset Prison has been awarded nearly £650,000 in damages from the MOD.

Sally Knauer died aged 46 in August 2009 - five months after she was diagnosed with malignant mesothelioma resulting from 'occupational exposure to asbestos in the workplace.' It is believed she came into contact with asbestos while working as an administrator at Guy's Marsh Prison in Shaftsbury.

Her husband's solicitor, Brigitte Chandler of Swindon law firm Charles Lucas & Marshall and one of the UK's leading authorities on asbestos related litigation, said evidence for the case was particularly hard to obtain as prison staff has been instructed not to give statements.

"The attitude of the prison and the Ministry of Defence - who issued a full statement denying they had exposed Mrs Knauer to asbestos - was particularly unhelpful and was criticised by the Master giving direction in the case," said Brigitte Chandler.

Mrs Knauer worked at the prison between 1997 and 2007. Workmen were working with asbestos in open environments and Mrs Knauer probably came into contact with the asbestos simply by walking past it.

After her diagnosis she endured radical surgery but died in Yeovil Hospital in August 2009, leaving her husband, Ian, of Gillingham, Dorset and three adult sons.

On Mr Knauer's behalf, Brigitte Chandler prepared the case to sue the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) for failing to protect his wife from the well documented hazards of exposure to asbestos dust.

Initially, the MoJ indicated that because Mrs Knauer's cancer started so soon after her exposure it could not have come from the prison.  However following the production of witness statements, by Brigitte Chandler, from people who had worked in the prison, the Ministry indicated they would accept liability and agreed to judgment being entered against them and a £50,000 interim payment.  

The case came before Mr Justice Bean in the High Court on 10th and 11th July.  The judge initially reserved judgment before awarding Mr Knauer the sum of £647,840.51.

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