Man wins £275k payout for school asbestos exposure

Chris Wallace Chris Wallace claimed he was exposed to asbestos while at schools in Devon during the 1980s and 90s

A man who claims he developed terminal cancer after being exposed to asbestos while a schoolboy in Devon has been given a council payout of £275,000.

Chris Wallace, 36, was diagnosed with asbestos-related cancer of an organ lining - or mesothelioma - at 30.

Devon County Council has settled a claim from him just a few weeks before the case went to court. The award was made without an admission of liability.

The council said it took "great care to manage asbestos in its buildings".


  • More than 2,500 people in the UK are diagnosed with mesothelioma each year
  • It is almost always caused by exposure to asbestos
  • Men are five times more likely to be diagnosed than women
  • Treatment depends on several factors, including the stage of the cancer and general health
  • Chemotherapy is the main treatment
  • Radiotherapy may be used in some cases to help prevent complications from developing
  • Experts believe that, by 2050, 90,000 people in the UK will have died as a result of the condition

Source: NHS

Mr Wallace, who has peritoneal mesothelioma - which develops in tissues covering the abdomen - said he attended Yeo Valley Primary School, Yeo Valley Junior School, South Molton Juniors and South Molton Community College between 1982 and 1993.

He worked with Boyes Turner solicitors and said he collated examples of when he may have been in contact with asbestos.

Mr Wallace, who now lives in Wisbech, Cambridgeshire, said: "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 it was a "unique case" and the only time a former pupil had taken such legal action.

It said: "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."

Mesothelioma can lie dormant for up to 40 years.

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