THE family of a woman who contracted asbestosis through assembling gas masks during the Second World War 70 years ago has won nearly £48,000 damages.

Doris Timbrell died of oesophageal cancer in November 2008 but, four years earlier, an x-ray at Preston Hospital revealed multiple calcified pleural plaques due to asbestos exposure.

By the end of 2004, she was struggling on the stairs with breathlessness and, during the last years of her life, her daughter Patricia Nicholas shopped, cooked and cleaned for her.

Mrs Timbrell, whose death was not connected to the asbestosis, had worked at Baxters of Blackburn between 1941 and 1943 assembling gas masks and fitting filters and, after her death, a compensation claim was launched against the Ministry of Defence by Mrs Nicholas.

The MoD admitted liability and causation but argued that the case was brought outside the legal time limit and that success for Mrs Nicholas would be a ‘windfall’.

But yesterday at London's High Court, Judge Gary Burrell allowed the case to proceed and said that Mrs Timbrell’s decision not to pursue the claim was directly related to the effects of the asbestos exposure which was the MoD’s fault and which caused the condition which she said made her too ill and disabled to contemplate proceedings.

He said: “The reality was that the deceased wanted to sue but was of the view that she was too ill to do so.

“Given her age and the nature of her symptoms, that is understandable.” Mrs Nicholas gave evidence that her mother was a reserved, timid lady, who wanted to pursue the case as she felt hard done by.

The court heard Mrs Timbrell felt bitter that she had done her bit for the war effort and this was how she was rewarded.

Mrs Nicholas said her mother would become distressed, with her face changing colour, if the possibility of action was mentioned, and she felt it was unfair to push her, given the extent of her symptoms, and so was obliged to leave it at that.

Her main concern was the quality of her mother's life and she did not take legal advice at that stage as she was too involved in the care of her mother, which was ‘all consuming’.

The judge said that from 2004, Mrs Timbrell's quality of life was significantly compromised.

She used an oxygen cylinder and lost her independence – but it was right to take into account that the disease did not shorten her life.

He awarded £40,000 for pain, suffering and the effect of the condition on Mrs Timbrell's life and another £7,657 for the care and assistance she required.