THE Royal Scots Club is fighting a legal action by its former secretary who claims he suffered asbestos poisoning in the building – and has instead suggested his illness was caused by playing the trombone.
Lawyers for 78-year-old Douglas Mannifield are suing for £100,000 in damages, alleging he cannot walk more than 100 yards due to breathlessness caused by his exposure to deadly dust.
Mr Mannifield worked at the private members’ club in Abercromby Place between 1977 and 1989, when his duties included sweeping the boiler room.
Bosses at the club are rejecting their former employee’s allegations, arguing that the boiler was “not in poor condition” and did not release dust.
The club’s lawyers have demanded to know whether Mr Mannifield – a keen trombone player – had ever played the instrument in “any environment in which asbestos might have been present” in a bid to identify alternative origins for his illness.
Mr Mannifield lodged the legal action at the Court of Session in Edinburgh against the club and its trustees.
Last year, Mr Mannifield received a £10,125 payment from the Government under the Pneumoconiosis (Workers Compensation) Act 1979, which compensates asbestos sufferers.
The pensioner alleges that until 1986, when the area was renovated, the boiler and pipework at the club was insulated with “brown and flaky” asbestos, and the 10ft by 8ft room had only a small window which was never opened, leaving it “invariably dusty”. His duties as club secretary included checking and controlling the boiler, causing asbestos dust to be “generated and breathed in by him”.
Mr Mannifield, who formerly lived in Marionville Crescent, but now stays in Preston, Lancashire, claims that he swept the boiler room “several times a day”, producing more dust that he inhaled. In a document submitted to the court, Mr Mannifield’s lawyers say their client was “never warned of the dangers of inhaling asbestos” and was “not issued with protective equipment”.
Mr Mannifield said that he suffered increasing breathlessness in 2008, and a CT scan that September diagnosed pleural plaques and diffuse bilateral thickening – conditions which affect lung expansion.
His lawyers contend that their client’s illness had left him “substantially limited in his activities” and gave him a reduced life expectancy due the club’s failure to provide protective equipment and a safe place to work.
But the club’s lawyers contend that Mr Mannifield was a “heavy smoker for many years” and that he already suffered from a number of illness “unrelated to asbestos”, including chronic bronchitis, emphysema and heart disease.
The lawyers called for Mr Mannifield to reveal any locations he played his trombone where asbestos may have been present.
The club, which now has 1750 members, was founded to honour the memory of the 11,162 Royal Scots killed in the First World War.
The Georgian building includes a 22-room hotel, while a new function suite was opened in May by Princess Anne following a £1.5 million refurbishment.
Adrian Hayes, the club’s general manager, said he could not comment on the ongoing case.
Mr Mannifield’s solicitors, Andersons LLP, were contacted for comment but failed to respond.