Ex-shop fitter sues Sir Richard Branson over alleged Virgin Records asbestos exposure

virgin logo A cancer victim is taking legal action against Sir Richard Branson and Virgin Records, claiming that he developed his terminal illness as a result of coming into contact with asbestos at several of the entrepreneur’s London stores.

Former shop fitter Bernard Jones, 74, has launched a High Court writ alleging negligence, in relation to alleged exposure to the lethal substance at Virgin Records’ Oxford Street and Sloane Street stores in the 1970s.

Mr Jones, of Llanfoist, Monmouthshire, stated that he developed malignant mesothelioma – the first symptoms of which only occurred in 2020 – due to asbestos exposure at the two stores while he was renovating them between 1971 and 1973.

Allegations of exposure to asbestos dust

Sir Richard Branson founded the Virgin Records label in 1970, when he was 20. The writ states that the following year, Mr Jones began working as part of a team of six fitters transforming an old shoe shop on Oxford Street into the first Virgin Records store.

Mr Jones claims that the ripping-out of old insulation boards and sheets with hammers and crow bars resulted in the production of asbestos dust, to which he was exposed.

He was required to sweep up the debris and to later fit asbestos insulation boards in the stores with a carpenter who cut them.

The writ added that Mr Jones sometimes slept on-site at the Sloane Street store.

According to the High Court papers, a letter was sent to Virgin Records Ltd in July 2020 outlining Mr Jones’ claim, after he first developed symptoms of mesothelioma earlier that year.

Virgin Records Ltd did not acknowledge this letter. It is claimed that Mr Jones’ solicitors then sent a follow-up letter and email reminding the company of his limited life expectancy, but the firm again failed to respond.

Deteriorating symptoms, and a lack of warning about dangers

The writ states that the increasing breathlessness and chest pain Mr Jones suffered from early last year led to a respiratory disability – and by June 2020, he required slow release morphine for pain and received immunotherapy.

Mr Jones faces a future of ever-more severe pain, breathlessness and debility, according to the writ, which adds that he will probably eventually become completely incapacitated and require constant care.

The ex-shop fitter accuses Sir Richard Branson and Virgin Records of negligence, stating that they set him to work in conditions involving exposure to substantial amounts of asbestos dust. He added that he was required to undertake such duties as the ripping-out of asbestos boards, the sweeping-up of asbestos dust, and working alongside others to install asbestos insulation, without protection.

He says he has filed for damages due to a lack of warning about the dangers of this work.

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