Teacher Dies From Asbestos in Classroom, Family Files Lawsuit

Last September,  60-year-old U.K. Art teacher Jennifer Barnett passed away from mesothelioma, which allegedly occurred after years of pinning students’ work to asbestos-filled walls in a classroom at the Archway School in Stroud, Gloucestershire. Barnett’s family recently filed an asbestos-related lawsuit against the local council, on behalf of the victim.

Barnett worked for the Archway School from 1980 to 1997 as an Art teacher, and according to family members, she frequently pinned her students’ work onto the walls in the classroom. Although Barnett was aware that the school building contained asbestos, she was unaware that asbestos fibers were disturbed in the classroom walls.

Additionally, her husband, Nigel Barnett, states that the former teacher also cut asbestos sheets while working on a farm as a young woman. Nigel Barnett states that afterwards, she worked at various schools as an Art teacher, including the Archway School, until she left her position to have her 4th child.

Per Katy Skerrett, the coroner who investigated the death, stated that it was an industrial-related disease that led to the former teacher’s demise. A large tumor was found in her right lung, post-mortem.

Skerrett also states that there is sufficient enough evidence to indicate that asbestos exposure via her occupation was the cause of her death. In turn, the family filed a mesothelioma lawsuit against the Gloucestershire County Council.

Speaking about his wife, Nigel Barnett remembers her as loving and healthy person who enjoyed life.

“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.”

Nigel Barnett also detailed the uncertainty and fear when his wife was asked about asbestos exposure. Jennifer Barnett knew there was asbestos in the school but she was unaware of the risks she was put through on a daily basis while working.

“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.”

Asbestos in School Buildings

Although asbestos was banned from new school buildings in the U.K. in 1999, thousands of people have already developed asbestos-related illnesses from working in buildings that were built prior to 1999. According to the Gloucestershire County Council asbestos administration officer, Phil Ashbee-Dobbins, buildings created in the 1960s, 70s, and even a few built in the late 90s, contain asbestos. However, he was quick to state that asbestos isn’t dangerous unless disturbed.

‘It doesn’t pose a risk unless it is disturbed, and we help schools under local authority control keep their own accurate records and to make sure it is treated properly and safely. Archway School has been extensively renovated in recent years. In addition, regular asbestos audits are completed as part of standard health and safety procedures.”

However, it’s important to note that the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), the American Cancer Society (ACS), and other organizations state that there is never a safe level of asbestos, regardless of how small.

Ashbee-Dobbins declined to comment on the Barnett family’s mesothelioma lawsuit against the school district. He did state, however, that they are doing everything they can to ensure students, teachers, and staff members remain safe from asbestos exposure.

Help and Resources for Asbestos Victims

If you or a loved one suffer from an asbestos-related disease, such as mesothelioma or asbestosis, you may qualify for substantial compensation. Right now, there is over $30 billion in asbestos trust funds, awaiting those who’ve been diagnosed with an asbestos illness. We’ve been helping families get in touch with experienced mesothelioma attorneys for over 20 years. Fill out our contact form today to get free brochures from the leading mesothelioma attorneys in your area.

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