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Work disease – are the scales tipping for victims?

Work diseases affect thousands of people every year.  In this article we tell you how some recent cases will help those affected make a claim – even where the damage caused is slight.

Corries Solicitors are specialist in work disease claims.  Our team has unrivalled experience in dealing with work diseases caused by exposure to dust, chemicals and noise.

Two recent court decisions have reshaped the law in terms of how the courts will look at cases involving bodily damage caused by work. The first deals wiht sensitisation due to work chemicals. The second is a work deafness case. Both are helpful.

work disease
Work disease victims may seek the scales tipping in their favour

Work disease – sensitisation case

A recent case of Dryden & Others v Johnson Matthey PLC has  greatly changed what courts will now consider to be an actual injury and which will get damages.  This means that people even without any actual symptoms but having been made sensitive to potential problems can have a claim for compensation.

The Case Facts

The Claimants in this case had been employed in the defendants factory making catalytic converters.  Because of the employers failings they had been exposed to platinum salts. They had become sensitised to them.  These salts produce a particular type of antibody in their immune system.  This would not cause symptoms unless they were further exposed to platinum salts. Even with light exposure they could set off an allergic reaction including symptoms of asthma, rhinitis(ulceration and dribbling of the nose) and skin and eye irritations.

The employees sensitisation was found through workplace testing. They were no longer allowed to work in the areas where they were exposed. One of the employees was redeployed and the other two were dismissed.

All three employees argued they had suffered a loss of earnings or earning capacity.The cases actually one lost at the first trial and at the Court of Appeal. It was taken to the highest court in the land, the Supreme Court.

The key argument was whether platinum salts sensitisation qualified as a claim for personal injuries.

The Arguments

The defendants argued that the issue of sensitisation was not enough of itself to trigger a claim.  They relied upon cases which affected asbestos sufferers back in 2007.  At that time the then House of Lords ruled that pleural plaques (a scarring of the lining of the lung) could no longer form the basis of a claim.  The argument was they caused no symptoms so no compensation was due. This decision stopped what had been good and recognised law for 30 years. It denied compensation to hundreds of thousands of victims.

However in the Dryden case the Supreme Court found that the platinum salts sensitisation could not be classed merely as a development of an antibody in the body.  The antibody was likely to produce allergic symptoms if there was any exposure to platinum salts.  This was an actual change to the body which changed it from it’s previous state.

In essence the workers had lost the “safety net” of sensitisation. Because of this the court found that this left them worse off.  The court found that the damage that they suffered was more than negligible.

Once this sensitisation was found to be a claim in its own right logic dictates they could seek compensation. This could include both damages for the condition itself and other financial losses that flow from it such as loss of wages,bonuses and future work related losses.

The case is to be sent back to the trial judge to value the case. A link to the case can be found here

work disease
Work disease deafness claims may be easier in the future

The Work Deafness Claim

Workplace deafness claims have been made for many years.  A recent case judgment of Evans v Secretary of State for Department of Energy & Climate Change and another has changed the landscape for work deafness victims. In this case arguments about minimal deafness caused by work noise was carefully assessed and how even minimal damage can still attract compensation.

Exposure to noise at work is known to cause hearing loss. Workers often need hearing aids or cannot do job because the exposure to noise affects what they can hear at different frequencies. Cases are often bogged down in complex medical arguments about what actual damage is caused.

A lot of medical papers were discussed and how noise affects hearing. The judge looked at this and the hearing test results. These showed a “bulge”when listening to sounds between 3- 4 kHz. The experts for both sides accepted this showed noise damage suffered by Mr Evans.

The Arguments

It was argued by the Defendant that this loss would not generally be noted by the victim. The medical guidelines were considered. In his judgment the judge found that this modest change nevertheless made a material significant and appreciable difference to his capacity to hear and understand sounds . The judge found that the exposure to noise explains this change and the victim was therefore due compensation.

The Outcome

In this case the Claimant was awarded £7,500 . In addition he also was able to make a claim for hearing aids which would be needed sooner than because of the simple ageing process. This added some monies to his compensation.

A link to an article about the case can be found here

What effect will these decisions have on work disease victims?

These cases support other recent work disease cases including those for asbestos diseases like mesothelioma. See our recent articles on those issues here

They show that the courts are taking a more sensible and practical approach to work disease claims. The time for technical legal and medical arguments may well be over. The possibility of making claims for difficult work place disease claims is much better.

In our opinion these decisions will make it much easier for claims for the following conditions:-

  • asthma
  • carpal tunnel
  • VW
  • work related deafness
  • asbestos disease
  • silicosis

Corries Comment

Corries Director and Industrial Disease specialist Howard Bonnett commented

“It is clear that the courts are applying a more common sense approach to work disease claims.  Victims exposed to dust, noise or chemicals should not have to be stopped by clever legal arguments.If employers are to blame, for whatever damage, then victims should be compensated. This recent case law is much appreciated.

Claims for work disease which otherwise would have failed now need to be carefully looked at. My team are looking forward to helping a broad spectrum of work disease victims in the future.Let us hope the future is better for them”

Have you been affected by a disease in the last three years that you think may be due to work? If you have not yet made a claim then call our team NOW.  Our friendly and helpful staff will be happy to talk this through and see if we can do anything for you.  We deal with all our cases on a “no win no fee” basis so there is no outlay from you.

Call us now free on 0800 083 7839.


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