Archive for June, 2012
This article was published in the Swindon Advertiser on Monday 25th June 2012. If you wish to read the original article please click her!
BRIGITTE CHANDLER had never heard of mesothelioma until one day in the early 1980s.
“Somebody in the office was the wife of a railway worker in Swindon,” Brigitte recalled. “He developed an asbestos cancer and she didn’t know what to do.
“I was very friendly with her and she approached me and said ‘Can you help me?’. I didn’t have in-depth knowledge but I decided I could. We successfully concluded her case.”
Within a few years the talented Swindon solicitor would be hailed as The Scourge of British Rail, so adept was she at securing compensation for victims and their loved ones. The fearsome title makes her chuckle to this day. “I just want to help people who have been unjustly treated,” she said.
Brigitte’s first name is pronounced with a hard ‘g’ and the last syllable as ‘eh’, which are clues to her origins. She was born in Gutersloh in North West Germany to a property developer father and home-maker mother. They divorced during her early childhood and her mother later met and married a member of the RAF who was based near the town.
Brigitte has two brothers and a sister. A third brother died in a road accident many years ago. Her early childhood included several RAF postings, among them a stint in Gibraltar, before the family settled in Aylesbury when she was 11. “It was quite pleasant,” she recalled, “and nice to settle down.”
The young Brigitte attended a local girls’ grammar school. The future Scourge of British Rail saw a rather different path for herself in those days. “My ambition was to become a ballerina. I wanted to become a world famous prima ballerina.
“I gave that up at about 16. I grew too tall. You have to be small and petite to be heaved around!”
At Manchester University, Brigitte initially read History and Classics but soon grew disenchanted. “I had enjoyed history at school because it was constitutional history, which I like, and there was my interest in statutes. When I got to university it was all about medieval history and ancient history, studying things like how many sheep there were in Yorkshire and how much wool was produced per animal.
“One lecturer had a moat around his house and drank out of goblets – I couldn’t see myself going that way. I wanted something more practical and I thought law was the answer.”
Transferring to a law course after a year of history, she found herself drawn to the law of torts, which concerns redress for a host of wrongs ranging from breaches of duty to physical harm. “I think I came top of my year in torts,” she recalled.
Three years later, armed with a freshly-minted LLB degree, Brigitte headed for the City of London and the beginnings of what would probably have been an extremely lucrative career with a law firm there, had she not decided to leave.
“It was commercial work, which didn’t interest me,” she said.
Hearing of an opening with Townsend in Swindon, Brigitte moved here and did general work until that request for help from a co-worker in the early 1980s. The subsequent three decades have seen her handle hundreds more cases and become the undisputed foremost legal expert in asbestos-related illness. She has familiarised herself not only with all available medical data but also decades of working practices in the Railway Works among other employers. She has pored over blueprints of locomotives, carriages and factories.
Those she has helped include not only former workers and those they left behind but also wives and other loved ones who contracted mesothelioma by washing soiled work clothes.
Brigitte has helped people who suffered other work-related health issues such as deafness, and has been personally responsible for changes in the law allowing loved ones to be compensated for nursing the ill and dying, and for missing out not just on companionship but practical things like driving and decorating.
Like many who have made a positive difference to countless lives, she is modest about her achievements, but admits: “I did make it my life’s work to fight for the people in Swindon who have been exposed to asbestos, not just in the Railway Works but with other employers.
“Work in the City is much more lucrative and I did turn my back on that. Industrial disease work isn’t the way for a lawyer to make millions, but it is helping people.”
Should you like to contact Brigitte Chandler then please phone 01793-511055 or send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org
British Rail has paid £60,000 in compensation to the family of a former Swindon railway worker who died from asbestos related cancer in November 2010.
Philip Smith of Medgbury Road, Swindon worked for British Rail for 26 years at its Swindon works and for much of that period was continuously exposed to asbestos.
He worked in the AE shop, at one time the largest workshop in Europe, where his job was to plaster white asbestos over steam boilers. Many of his work colleagues have already died from asbestos related illnesses.
His solicitor, Brigitte Chandler, a leading industrial disease lawyer and partner with Swindon law firm, Charles Lucas & Marshall and who has represented many hundreds of railway workers over the last 30 years, says Mr Smith became unwell two years before his death, which was caused by diffuse pleural thickening due to exposure to asbestos.
“There are still many people in Swindon who worked in the railway industry who are being affected by asbestos exposure,” she said. “On a more positive note, British Rail is now well aware of the problem and providing someone can show they worked there and were exposed to asbestos, many claims are now generally settled out of court.”
BRB (Residuary) Limited, the company with responsibility for the British Rail works in Swindon, settled Mr Smith’s claim out of court. Deaths from asbestos exposure are likely to peak over the next few years. Anyone suffering from chest problems who has been exposed to asbestos should seek medical advice.
“Unfortunately the area where Mr Smith worked was notorious for using large quantities of asbestos and there have been other deaths from employees working in the same area, added Brigitte Chandler.
“Claims against British Rail for asbestos exposure have been running for over 30 years. Even though the works were closed 25 years ago, cases are still arising because it can take up to 60 years for the illness to develop after exposure.”
The Swindon and South West Asbestos Group is a regional charity which provides support groups and a free advice service to people suffering from asbestos disease and their families.
They now offer home visits to sufferers in the Swindon area to advise on benefits available.
For further information contact Brigitter Chandler on 01793-511055 or email@example.com