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January 21, 2018

Asbestos exposure in schools case sees cancer sufferer paid £275,000 by Devon County Council

Chris Wallace

Chris Wallace was awarded an out of court settlement by Devon County Council after claiming he developed cancer after being exposed to asbestos in school in South Molton in the 1990s and 1980s.


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A “UNIQUE case” where a man claimed he was exposed to asbestos as a schoolboy in South Molton and developed cancer has seen a £275,000 payout by Devon County Council.

Between 1982 and 1993 Chris Wallace went to Yeo Valley Primary School, Yeo Valley Junior School, South Molton JuniorSchool and South Molton Community College.

The 36-year-old was diagnosed with asbestos-related terminal cancer of an organ lining at the age of 30.

Known as peritoneal mesothelioma, this form of cancer grows in tissues covering the abdomen and can lie dormant for up to 40 years.

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Mr Wallace’s claim was settled by the council just weeks before the case went to court and it awarded him the money without admitting liability.

Mr Wallace, who has since moved to Wisbech, Cambridgeshire, took great care in recollecting times of when he may have come into contact with asbestos during school.He collated examples ahead of the case, which will now not be heard.

Mr Wallace was reported as saying: “It was a very difficult case, having to prove you were there and that you were exposed to a certain level.

“The council has to take a large chunk of responsibility. They know it’s in the building and children are at risk of getting to it.

“It’s down to them to ensure it’s removed safely.”

Devon County Council said this was the first case of a former pupil taking such legal action.

A spokesman for Devon County Council said: “This is a unique case and the only time a former Devon school pupil has taken legal action in these circumstances.

“We obviously have every sympathy with Mr Wallace for his illness. But it is important to point out that the case was settled out of court without any admission of liability from Devon County Council.

““Devon County Council takes great care to manage asbestos in its buildings and that includes regular inspections. Asbestos is safe as long as it isn’t disturbed.

“All Devon schools have been surveyed for asbestos and each school holds a full record of any asbestos in its buildings.

“This identifies where asbestos is located, its condition and our safety policies. Contractors are also required to sign the asbestos list on any visit which has the potential to disturb the asbestos.

“Schools have their own Asbestos Management Plans which detail their local arrangements, including communication between the school, parents and staff.”

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Asbestos exposure in schools case sees cancer sufferer paid £275,000 by Devon County Council