The family of a Gloucestershire art teacher who passed away after developing an asbestos-related lung cancer following years of pinning art work to asbestos-lined classroom walls is taking legal action against the local council.
60-year-old Jennifer Barnett died last September, just 14 months after being diagnosed with mesothelioma – a form of cancer almost always caused by asbestos exposure.
She worked at the Archway School in Stroud from 1980 to 1997 and her husband, Nigel, from Painswick, told an inquest into her death in January that she had also worked at a farm in her 20s, cutting sheets of asbestos.
“She then became an art teacher and from 1977 until 1995 worked at various schools, often hanging paintings on walls containing asbestos,” he added.
A post-mortem identified a large tumour in Mrs Barnett’s right lung and coroner Katy Skerrett concluded that she had died as a result of an industrial disease.
“It is clear that there was sufficient exposure to asbestos in her occupation for me to reach a conclusion that this lady died from an industrial disease,” Ms Skerrett said.
Mr Barnett and his family believe that the asbestos present in Archway School was the cause of the mother of four’s death and the family are now taking legal action against Gloucestershire County Council.
The news comes amid calls by the National Union of Teachers’ (NUT) to expose levels of asbestos in schools.
Mr Barnett said: “Jen was a fantastic wife and a wonderful mother to our four children. She was so precious to us and it is hard to believe she’s gone.
“Prior to her illness, she was a very fit and healthy 60-year old who enjoyed playing tennis in her spare time and was a dedicated and extremely talented artist who continued to work right up until her death.
“Our youngest daughter was only 18 when her mum passed away and was just about to start university.
“The whole family misses her dreadfully and we are all shocked and devastated that her life was cut short so suddenly.”
In a statement released this week (6th April), Mr Barnett said that his wife also did clay modelling with pupils during her time as a teacher, with the cupboard in which the clay was stored also containing asbestos.
“I’ll never forget the consultant at the hospital asking Jen if she’d ever been exposed to asbestos and her saying a definite “yes” because she knew a lot of asbestos was previously used in school buildings,” he said.
If you or your loved one has been exposed to asbestos through your work and you’d like to discuss your legal options, we can help you. Our highly experienced team of industrial disease solicitors have many years of experience in settling claims relating to times of asbestos exposure and we understand that this will be an extremely difficult time for you and your family. You can contact us for free on 0800 122 3130 or through our website here. You can also request a call at a time convenient for you by clicking here.