Six-figure payout for school cancer victim

Penny Devaney
Penny Devaney
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  • Teacher exposed to asbestos during building work at Lancashire schools
  • No memory of protective clothing being provided
  • Council made out-of-court settlement

A FORMER Preston teacher suffering from cancer caused by exposure to asbestos has received a six-figure out of court settlement from Lancashire County Council.

Penny Devaney has mesothelioma, a terminal cancer caused by exposure to asbestos decades ago.

The mother-of-two and grandmother-of-four is now retired but spent much of her teaching career in Preston and South Ribble, where she said she was exposed to the deadly material.

She taught at St Maria Goretti’s Catholic Primary School in Ribbleton, St Benedict’s RC Primary School, in Walton-le-Dale, which merged with St Mary’s to become St Mary and St Benedict’s in Bamber Bridge, and ended her career as deputy headteacher at St Mary’s Catholic Primary in Leyland.

During her career Penny, who now lives in Cheshire with her husband James, said she was exposed to asbestos while construction was taking place.

She regularly visited the buildings where building work and refurbishment was going on and said she had no 
recollection of being provided with any protective equipment to limit her exposure to asbestos.

Through solicitors Irwin Mitchell, she sued the education authority, who was responsible for the schools she worked in between 1978 and 2004, although they did not admit liability.

Ian Toft, an expert asbestos lawyer at Irwin Mitchell, leading the case, said: “Penny was a teacher for almost 30 years and we believe she was exposed to asbestos when construction took place at the various schools she worked at in Lancashire.”

Penny said: “I was absolutely devastated when I was diagnosed with mesothelioma, which was caused purely by going to work and doing my job.

“I never thought that I was being exposed to asbestos during my career and the diagnosis completely took me by surprise.”

“I am delighted my legal team at Irwin Mitchell has secured a settlement from Lancashire County Council, but what I really want is for asbestos in schools to be taken more seriously, so other teachers and pupils don’t end up suffering, as I am, decades down the line.”