Nora Dockerty – the first successful British Asbestos Claimant

In the spirit of International Women’s Day, we collected some facts on Nora Dockerty – the first successful British Asbestos Claimant.

Nora, born in 1918, worked for Turner Brothers Asbestos Company, a business that waved asbestos cloth with power-driven machinery. When her contract of employment was terminated due to illness in November 1948, she had given thirteen and a half years of service initially as a machine assistant in TBA’s Carding and Spinning Department. At her death in 1950, Nora was only 31 years old.

Nora’s husband had pre-deceased her leaving her father to pursue TBA for compensation on his granddaughter’s behalf. An autopsy of lung tissue conducted by Dr Manning at the Rochdale Mortuary enabled the coroner to confirm the cause of death as “Generalised Tuberculosis accelerated by the presence of Asbestosis” on February 23, 1950. A subsequent report by the Pneumoconiosis Medical Panel in Manchester concluded that the cause of death was “Pneumoconiosis (Asbestosis) accompanied by Tuberculosis”.

Having spoken to an official at the National Union of General and Municipal Workers, Mr Kelly, Nora’s father, began the process of gathering the evidence which would be needed if a lawsuit was to succeed. The information collected was passed to the union which then instructed the law firm of Messrs John Whittle, Robinson & Bailey to act for the family. After protracted negotiations and extensive legal jostling, the case was finally settled in January 1952 when Turner & Newall, TBA’s parent company, paid the sum of £375 with costs. Commenting on the significance of the case brought for the death of Nora Dockerty, Professor Nick Wikeley wrote: “The story of Kelly v. Turner & Newall Ltd represents a microcosm of the balance struck in the asbestos industry between workers’ health and company profitability: between 1931 and 1948, £87,938 was paid out to 140 asbestosis victims under the Asbestosis Scheme; in the same period, nearly £7 million was distributed to shareholders.”

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