Asbestos victim wins record payout

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A man with little more than a year to live has won a record £285,000 in compensation after contracting cancer through exposure to asbestos.

The award to Jim Guthrie, 52, is understood to be the highest of its type to someone who is still alive. Legal cases normally take so long that the victim is dead before payments can be made.

The compensation awarded to Mr Guthrie signals a huge and increasing bill for industry and its insurers as cases of mesothelioma increase in the next two decades. The number of people dying from the incurable disease, which can take between 30 and 40 years to develop, is expected to increase from 3,000 a year to more than 10,000 in 15 to 20 years' time. Experts predict that more than 160,000 people will die of the cancer during the next 16 years.

Mr Guthrie, a former British Gas manager who lives in Edinburgh, contracted mesothelioma after breathing asbestos fibres while an apprentice joiner in his teens working for the St Cuthbert's Co-operative Society.

Married with a teenage son, Mr Guthrie finds it difficult to walk upstairs and will soon be forced to move house. He is taking morphine to control the pain. He said: "I have accepted it and I live every day to the fullest I can."

Dave Prentis, general secretary of the union Unison, which backed Mr Guthrie, said the problem would increase rapidly. "Jim's case is not unique: the true extent of damage caused by asbestos exposure is a time bomb."