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UK Injury Compensation News

Woman Claims Employer Discrimination due to a Disability

A woman has told an employment tribunal in Southampton that employer discrimination due to a disability left her feeling “hurt and confused”.

Kay Sunny (52) – a clerk for the cosmetics company Estee Lauder – told the employment tribunal how, in May 2006, she suffered an epileptic fit in front of the company´s HR Manager and was rushed to Southampton General Hospital where she was diagnosed with epilepsy and a generic blood disorder that resulted in her also suffering a stroke.

While she was off work, Kay was paid a proportion of her salary under the company´s permanent health insurance scheme. The payments were supposed to continue until she was fit to return to work or until her retirement, but in August 2013 the payments stopped and Kay received a letter from her employer saying that she was no longer incapacitated and was fit to return to work.

Kay complained to the Financial Ombudsman Service and, in 2015, a decision was granted in her favour. Her health insurance payments resumed, but she was still upset by the tone of her employer´s unsympathetic letter – having not previously heard from the company for a number of years. Kay sought legal advice and made a claim for employer discrimination due to a disability.

At the hearing, a representative of Estee Lauder argued that the letter did not constitute employer discrimination due to a disability, but was a reasonable request on behalf of the insurance company to ensure the severity of the Kay´s medical condition. Kay questioned why, in seven years, the company´s HR Manager had not picked up the phone to see how she was or advise her that the insurance company was making enquiries.

Kay explained to the tribunal board that her condition had left her feeling low and depressed, and afraid to go out. “I hated the embarrassment of having a seizure in front of people I knew, being unable to remember things and getting lost,” she said. “To be blunt, I felt stupid”. The decision in Kay´s claim for employer discrimination due to a disability is expected in several months.

Compensation for Workplace Disability Discrimination Upheld

A schoolteacher´s award of £180,000 compensation for workplace disability discrimination has been upheld by an Employment Appeal Tribunal in London.

In November 2013, Philip Grosset (46) – the Head of English at Joseph Rowntree School in York – gave extra classes to a small group of fifteen and sixteen year old pupils to help them prepare for their IGCSE exams, despite suffering from cystic fibrosis and being under extreme stress. Shortly after, Philip was signed off from work due to his ill health, and his classes were taken by the headmaster of the school.

During one of the headmaster´s lessons, it was learned that Philip had shown pupils the X-rated slasher movie Halloween. Philip was suspended and sacked from his £46,000-per-year job in May 2014 for gross misconduct. Philip sought legal advice and made a claim for unfair dismissal due to workplace disability discrimination on the grounds the school did not do enough to accommodate his condition.

Although his claim for unfair dismissal was rejected by an employment tribunal in September 2015, the school was found guilty of workplace disability discrimination and – in December 2015 – ordered to pay Philip £180,000 compensation plus an additional award to be determined to reflect his loss of pension. On behalf of the school, the City of York appealed the decision and the award of compensation.

At the appeal hearing in London, the three appeal judges upheld the decision of the Employment Tribunal. They ruled that, although the decision to dismiss Philip was fair, the school had failed to make reasonable adjustments for the needs of a teacher with cystic fibrosis. In addition to upholding the award of compensation, the judges ruled that the leadership team and governors at the school should undergo training in disability in the workplace.

Speaking after the Employment Appeal Tribunal´s ruling, Philip said: “It was appalling treatment of someone they knew was ill. I was really shocked by the treatment I got and disappointed by their reaction ever since.” Philip has now retired from teaching and works in IT while still waiting for his loss of pension award to be calculated.

Employers Warned against Blacklisting Employment Discrimination Claimants

Employers and recruitment agencies are being warned against using the government´s new tribunal database to blacklist employment discrimination claimants.

Earlier this month, the Ministry of Justice launched a portal listing decisions in employment tribunal cases. The portal covers all areas of employment disputes in England, Wales and Scotland from age discrimination to maternity rights.

An unintended consequence of the portal is that employers and recruitment agencies can search the database of decisions to see if a prospective employee has previously made an employment discrimination claim.

Concerns have been raised by lawyers that employment discrimination claimants could be unfairly victimised and blacklisted, as the portal only gives the decisions in the claims and not the circumstances in which the claims were made.

The lawyers have warned that businesses who blacklist employment discrimination claimants could face employment tribunal cases against them if it is discovered that an employee has been refused a position because of a previous employment discrimination claim.

They refer to the court case brought against several leading construction companies who had blacklisted construction workers for their trade union connections or for raising health and safety concerns. The case was settled in May last year for more than £10 million.

Speaking with Recruiter magazine, Christopher Tutton – a London-based senior employment lawyer – warned employers and recruitment agencies to exercise caution if using the new portal to screen applicants and find out if they were previously employment discrimination claimants.

He said: “Recruiters need to be very careful about this as it could leave them exposed to claims of discrimination, victimisation or whistleblowing if they screen candidates for this reason.” Mr Tutton´s views were mirrored by commercial lawyer David Whincup, who added:

“If you find the individual you were thinking of recruiting has previously claimed discrimination, then a decision on that basis not to take their application further could run the risk of being unlawful victimisation.”

Claim for an Injury at a Ski Resort Resolved by Negotiation

A holidaymaker´s claim for an injury at a ski resort has been resolved by negotiation following court proceedings being issued against a ski lift operator.

In December 2010, twenty-five year old Tom Giddens was on holiday at the French ski resort of Val Thorens in Saint-Martin-de-Belleville, when he and a friend got onto the ski lift with the intention of enjoying one final run of the day.

The ski lift stopped 200 feet from the top of the run and, as the two friends waited for the lift to restart, the temperature started falling. Tom – a student from Solihull in the West Midlands – rang the ski lift emergency number, but only got through to a message service in French.

After thirty minutes of waiting for help to arrive, Tom and his friend decided to jump from the ski lift. Tom´s friend lowered himself onto the bar of the ski lift and landed safely on the ground but, when Tom jumped, he landed badly and broke his leg.

Fortunately help arrived quickly, and Tom was taken to the resort´s medical centre on a bud wagon. After receiving preliminary treatment, he was transferred to Moutiers Hospital, where a metal pin was inserted into his leg to help the broken bone heal properly.

Tom returned to the UK five days later, where he spent five weeks recovering at the Good Hope Hospital in Sutton Coldfield. He was discharged on crutches and subsequently underwent eighteen months of physiotherapy. Sadly, he never regained the level of fitness he had prior to the accident.

Tom sought legal advice and made a claim for an injury at a ski resort against the operator of the ski lift – Societe D’Exploitation des Telepheriques Tarantaise-Maurienne – on the grounds that there had been a lack of safety standards.

The ski lifted operator initially denied liability, but once court proceedings were filed he France, negotiations started to resolve the claim for an injury at a ski resort, and Tom´s case was eventually settled for an undisclosed five-figure amount.

Dozens Receive Compensation for Food Poisoning from Street Food

Dozens of visitors to Newcastle´s 2013 Street Spice Festival have received compensation for food poisoning from street food sold at the event.

At the end of February 2013, more than 12,000 people attended the Newcastle Street Spice Festival – a non-profit event organised by a local restaurant owner to raise funds for a brain tumour charity. Sadly, one of the sixteen stallholders was serving a chutney that had been prepared with raw curry leaves, causing over 400 visitors to suffer gastric illnesses.

Almost fifty of those most seriously affected by illnesses claimed compensation for food poisoning from street food, including twenty-nine that had suffered the symptoms of Salmonella poisoning. Other claimants suffered symptoms caused by E.coli and Shigella poisoning – some of whom still suffer the consequences of eating the contaminated chutney three years after attending the event.

All of the injury claims have now been resolved, with settlements of compensation for food poisoning from street food ranging from £1,200 to £29,000 depending on the severity and impact of the individual´s illnesses. In total, the settlements have cost the event´s insurers more than £400,000 – an amount they intend to recover from the vendor of the curry leaves.

Speaking after the last of the claims had been settled, festival organiser Bob Arora told his local newspaper: “We are pleased that the matter has now been settled. As a result of our reporting of the outbreak to the Environmental Health Office and cooperating with their investigation fully, the EHO has been able to suggest changes in legislation in the use of curry leaves in order to prevent any further instances of food poisoning.”

He added: “Prior to the outbreak, the use of curry leaves in cooking was an extremely grey area, with no indication that raw leaves would be harmful to anyone’s health. Although the curry leaves were washed thoroughly prior to use by the vendors it was unfortunate that the contamination remained. Hopefully now that it has been clarified.”

Court Issues £950,000 Fine for Employee Burn Injuries at KFC

Teesside Crown Court has issued fines totalling £950,000 for health and safety breaches that resulted in two workers suffering employee burn injuries at KFC.

Kentucky Fried Chicken has 880 restaurants in the UK – 235 restaurants owned by the company, and the remainder franchises. The company claims to have “robust processes and procedures” in place to protect employees from injury but, as Teesside Crown Court heard last week, these procedures were not implemented in two North-East restaurants, resulting in two employee burn injuries at KFC.

The two burn accidents at KFC were attributable to employees removing vats of hot gravy without being supplied with personal protective equipment. In the first case presented to Teesside Crown Court, Joshua Arnold (16) was scalded across both arms when a boiling vat of gravy spilled as he took it out of a microwave oven at Teesside Retail Park in July 2014. Rather than receiving first aid and an ambulance being called, he was told to put wet towels over his injury and sent to hospital alone in a taxi.

Eighteen months later at the Wellington Square KFC, Heather Storer was also burned by gravy as she removed a vat from a microwave oven. Heather suffered third-degree burns to her right arm, hands, chest and stomach. In both cases, long-sleeved gauntlets should have been provided by the company to prevent employee burn injuries at KFC. The court also heard that in both cases, neither employee had been given instructions on how to remove the vats of boiling gravy safely.

Commenting that the two cases were similar inasmuch as the employee burn injuries at KFC occurred as a result of “inadequate supervision and the inadequate provision of safety equipment”, Judge Sean Morris fined Kentucky Fried Chicken (Great Britain) Limited a total of £950,000 for the two offences and ordered that the company pay £18,700 costs. He added: “It was lucky it wasn’t worse. It was just luck. Kitchens are dangerous places”.

Jaguar Land Rover Fined for Accident and Injury in a Manufacturing Plant

One of Britain´s largest vehicle manufacturers – Jaguar Land Rover – has been fined £900,000 for an accident and injury in a manufacturing plant.

On 8th February 2015, a Range Rover Sport vehicle was driven towards the start of the production line at the Jaguar Land Rover manufacturing plant in Solihull, West Midlands – an event that typically happens forty-eight times an hour during a normal working day.

However, on this occasion, the driver of the vehicle was covering a shift for an unwell employee, and was unfamiliar with the procedures for bringing cars onto the production line. He lost control of the vehicle and drove it into the back of a car he had previously delivered.

The collision resulted in a four-car shunt that trapped a colleague between the second and third cars on the production line. The colleague suffered devastating injuries to his right leg, which was later amputated above the knee. Two other employees were also injured in the accident.

The accident and injury in a manufacturing plant was investigated by officers from the Health and Safety Executive (HSE). The officers found that Jaguar Land Rover had failed to ensure the driver of the Range Rover Sport vehicle was familiar with the procedures for bringing cars onto the production line, and that workers were not properly separated from the moving vehicles on the production line.

The company was prosecuted for breaches of the Health and Safety at Work Act and for exposing its employees to the risk of injury. The hearing took place at Birmingham Crown Court earlier this week, where judges imposed a £900,000 fine for the accident and injury in a manufacturing plant and ordered Jaguar Land Rover to pay £49,800 costs.  Following the hearing HSE inspector John Glynn said:

“A worker has been left with life changing injuries that were completely avoidable, it was only good fortune that prevented this from being a fatal accident. Jaguar Land Rover knew the risks of driving vehicles onto production lines and the possibility of shunt accidents, but failed to protect their workers.”

MoJ Justifying Motor Accident Claims Policy on “Selective Data”

The Motor Accident Solicitors Society has accused the Department of Justice of using selective data to justify its motor accident claims policy.

The criticism of the mechanics being used to shape injury claims reforms was made by Simon Stanfield – the Chairman of the Motor Accidents Solicitors Society. In a recent press release, he claimed the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) was cherry-picking data to suit its motor accident claims policy and ignoring the rights of motor accident casualties.

Mr Stanfield referred to the MoJ´s consultation paper on motor accident claims, in which it was stated that the number of reported accidents between 2006 and 2015 had fallen from 190,000 to 142,000 per year. Yet Department for Transport figures published last week in Parliament revealed that more than 500,000 accidents were unreported to the police between 2011 and 2015.

Saying that he was hugely disappointed that the MoJ was justifying its motor accident claims policy on “selective data”, Mr Stanfield commented that the Ministry had systematically chosen to ignore the Department´s best estimate of around 710,000 motor accident casualties (reported and unreported), and that these are real people who need insurers and lawyers to look after them.

He added: “What we need is evidence-based policy to tackle the issues in the claims sector, not continued attempts to ignore the evidence of the number of road casualties to suit its policy agenda. With the evidence now before Parliament in black and white, the MoJ must now acknowledge that its evidence base for these proposals is seriously and perhaps fatally flawed.”

The Department for Transport figures presented to Parliament last week were in response to a question by the Chair of the Transport Select Committee – Louise Ellman MP. They were based on hospital admissions and other collected data between 2011 and 2015, and estimated around 460,000 “slight” injuries were unreported each year, along with 60,000 serious injuries due to motor accidents.

Solicitors Investigate Medical Negligence at Manchester Royal Infirmary

Solicitors are investigating a claim of medical negligence at Manchester Royal Infirmary after a woman had a leg amputated due to a misdiagnosis of cancer.

The unnamed woman was admitted to Manchester Royal Infirmary in January 2016 with a fracture of her left femur. Due to a medical history of underlying malignancy, she was given an X-ray and a scan, and her blood was tested for diseases such as osteoporosis that might have caused a weakness of her bone structure.

The scan and blood test showed no sign of a disease, and the woman underwent surgery to insert a metal rod into the cavity of the femur to strengthen it. She was subsequently discharged from the Emergency Surgical Trauma Unit, but readmitted to the hospital the following month to receive treatment for deep vein thrombosis (DVT).

During the surgery, a bone sample had been taken and sent away for testing. The test revealed a cancerous tumour, but the woman only found out about it when she read her discharge notes after her DVT treatment. She raised her concerns with doctors at the Manchester Royal Infirmary, but the diagnosis of cancer was not officially confirmed until one week later.

An internal investigation into the woman´s situation found the reason the tumour was not discovered during an inspection of the scan was that the scan did not cover the area of the thigh in which the tumour was located. It also found that, due to having the metal rod inserted in the femur, the usual options for treating the cancer were not available.

The woman subsequently had to have her left leg amputated above the knee to stop the cancer spreading and, after seeking legal advice, has instructed solicitors to investigate the level of care provided for her at the Central Manchester University Hospital NHS Foundation Trust. Her solicitors believe she may have a viable claim for medical negligence at Manchester Royal Infirmary.

One of the solicitors commented: “The swift, and more importantly, accurate diagnosis of cancer is absolutely crucial as early treatment can often provide the best possible chances of recovery and to prevent long-term health complications. Sadly, in this case, the NHS’ own investigation suggests that the staff who treated the woman at the NHS Trust in question failed to carry out the correct tests, meaning her cancer was not diagnosed as early as it could have been.”

Engineering Company Fined for Chemical Burn Injuries at Work

An engineering company has been fined £150,000 by Newcastle Crown Court for health and safety failings that resulted in chemical burn injuries at work.

Earlier this week, judges at Newcastle Crown Court heard that – on 31 July 2014 – two men working on behalf of PSL Worldwide Projects Ltd suffered chemical burn injuries at work while cleaning a pipe system at a site in Cramlington, Northumberland.

The judges were told that a chemical reaction occurred between the Sodium Hydroxide granules they were using and some water, causing the cleaning solution to heat up and create pressure within the hose. The hose detached from its mounting and sprayed both men with the solution.

One of the men suffered life-threatening chemical burn injuries at work – his back, buttocks, arms, leg, and one side of his face being burned by the cleaning solution. The second man also suffered chemical burn injuries at work to his head, neck, back, left arm and behind his right ear.

The HSE investigated the accident and found that an inadequate risk assessment had been conducted. Because of the inadequate risk assessment, the two men had been provided with a hose not suitable for the job and insufficient personal protective equipment.

PSL Worldwide Projects was prosecuted by the HSE for health and safety failings that resulted in chemical burn injuries at work. The company was found guilty of breaching Section 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 at Bedlington Magistrates´ Court last November.

Sentencing was referred to Newcastle Crown Court and, at the end of the hearing, the judges fined PSL Worldwide Projects £150,000. HSE inspector Laura Catterall commented: “If a suitable risk assessment had been undertaken it would have identified that the equipment being used was not right for the chemicals or the work being carried out. All companies who work with high hazard chemicals should learn from this case and ensure that their workers are properly protected.”

Insurers Challenge Proposed Changes to Lump Sum Compensation Payments

The insurance industry is taking legal action against proposed injury claims reforms that would increase lump sum compensation payments for serious injuries.

When courts award lump sum compensation payments for serious injuries, a “discount” is often applied to the settlement. The discount represents an assumption about how much interest the lump sum will accrue if the claimant invests the settlement over his or her life expectancy.

Historically, the amount of the discount was influenced by the interest rate at the time. However, in 2001, the government set a fixed rate of 2.5 percent. This rate has remained unchanged since, despite the decline in interest rates following the financial crash of 2008.

According to a report in the Financial Times, insurance companies are unhappy with proposals announced by Justice Secretary Elizabeth Truss to reduce the discount rate to a percentage more appropriate to the current economic climate.

The Association of British Insurers (ABI) claims that a reduction of the discount rate would result in a substantial increase in the value of lump sum compensation payments and feels that the industry has not been fully consulted about the consequences of the proposals.

Speaking to the Financial Times, Huw Evans – the Director-General of the ABI – explained why the organization was taking legal action against the proposed injury claims reforms, saying: Insurers are open to a proper dialogue on how to reform the system, but this is not the way to do it”.

Mr Evans believes that the discount rate applied to lump sum compensation payments needs to reflect the actual returns claimants could receive, rather than relying on a single figure. “It is vital that claimants get the compensation they are entitled to” he told the newspaper, “based on a formula that reflects how they are likely to invest it”.

The consequences of a significantly reduced discount rate and higher lump sum compensation payments for serious injuries could eliminate any savings to motorists generated by the proposals aimed at cracking down on fraudulent whiplash claims. Mohammad Khan – at partner at PriceWaterhouseCoopers told the Financial Times: “It could increase the average price paid for motor insurance by 20 percent”, adding approximately £85.00 per year to the average car insurance policy.

Concerns Raised about Future Cyclist Injury Claims

The British Cycling Federation has raised concerns about proposed whiplash compensation reforms and the impact they will have on cyclist injury claims.

Last month, Justice Secretary Elizabeth Truss announced that a series of reforms were being considered that would “crack down on minor, exaggerated and fraudulent [personal injury] claims”. The proposals are intended to address the perceived compensation culture that is allegedly responsible for inflating car insurance premiums. However, if adopted in their present state, the reforms will affect not only drivers and passengers with whiplash injuries, but all personal injury claims.

One of the most significant proposals is to increase the threshold for “small claims” from £1,000 to £5,000. Legal costs cannot be recovered from the negligent party in “small claims” and several organisations are concerned that the costs of seeking professional legal advice will deter many genuine claimants from taking legal action to recover compensation – or attempt to get a fair settlement from insurance companies without legal assistance.

One such organisation with concerns about their members´ access to justice is the British Cycling Federation. The Federation has produced statistics showing that 70 percent of cyclist injury claims are settled for less than £5,000. It also argues that its members could lose their entitlement to legal support because insurance companies want the government to do something about the volume of whiplash claims they process.

Martin Key, the Campaigns Manager for the British Cycling Federation, said: “This is a disappointing set of proposals, and we felt the need to speak out publicly on behalf of Britain’s cyclists as well as submit our own response to the consultation. “The vast majority of injuries sustained in cycling incidents are valued at under the proposed £5,000 limit, meaning that – under the new proposals – any cyclist involved in an incident would find it very difficult to get legal representation and therefore to be adequately compensated for their injuries.”

The British Cycling Federation is also unhappy that the consultation process for the proposed reforms runs over the Christmas period. It says that the January 6th deadline for responses to the proposals does not allow enough time for the broad number of issues affecting cyclist injury claims to be raised. The Federation will be submitting its response before the deadline, but is asking the Ministry of Justice to re-think both the proposals and the deadline for responses.

Wilko Accepts Liability for Employee Spine Injury in a Roll Cage Accident

One of the country´s largest homeware and household goods retailers has accepted liability for an employee spine injury in a roll cage accident.

In August 2013, twenty-year-old Corisande Collins was badly injured when a roll cage fell on top of her as it was being removed from a lift. The accident, which happened at the Beaumont Leys branch of Wilko in Leicester, was due to the roll cage being overloaded with paint pots and due to the floor of the lift not stopping level with the landing at the lift entrance.

At the time of the accident, Corisande was a first year student at Northampton University who was working part-time at the store as a customer assistant in order to fund her university studies. The accident left her with a spinal injury that has caused her to be paralysed from the hips down and confined to a wheelchair.

Inspectors from the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) investigated the accident and charged Wilko Retail Ltd with four breaches of the Health and Safety at Work Act. At Leicester Crown Court last week, representatives of the company pled guilty to failings in work practises that resulted in the employee spine injury in a roll cage accident.

After being shown X-rays of Corisande´s injury, Judge Ebraham Mooncey heard that Corisande had led an “active outgoing life” prior to the accident. The judge was told that she had just passed her driving test at the time and spent four months in a spinal injuries unit before returning to university to continue her degree eighteen months later.

The judge adjourned the hearing until January for sentencing – at which time a final settlement of compensation for an employee spine injury in a roll cage accident will also be agreed. Corisande has already received one interim settlement of compensation from Wilko´s insurers and said after the hearing:

“I never imagined something like this happening to me. Wilko are taking full responsibility for what happened, but this will never make up for the fact I’ve lost the use of my legs and will spend the rest of my life in a wheelchair. Although my injuries are permanent, they will not stop me from achieving all I want to in life. I wouldn’t be in the position I am without the support of my friends and family.”

Court Awards Compensation for a Brain Injury in a Farm Accident

The Edinburgh Court of Session has awarded a twenty-one year old man £325,000 compensation for a brain injury in a farm accident thirteen years ago.

On June 28th 2003, Craig Anderson was just eight years of age when he suffered a brain injury at the Hillhead Farm in Torrance, Stirlingshire. Craig had been playing football with a friend who lived at the farm, when the two boys decided to herd sheep through a gate and into a barn.

In order to reach the chain that opened the gate, Craig climbed onto the gate´s lower rung. Unfortunately the gate was unstable and unable to support Craig´s weight; and, as he lifted the chain from its metal post, the gate fell back onto Craig – trapping him to the ground after he had fallen.

Craig was taken to the Stobhill Hospital in Glasgow before being transferred to the Royal Hospital for Sick Children in Yorkhill. Because of the extent of his head injuries, Craig spent a further three weeks in the specialist unit of the Southern General Hospital.

At a hearing to establish liability in October, Craig told the court that, because of his brain injury, he led a very protected childhood, his academic performance suffered, and he was unable to complete a college course because of “very severe” headaches.

Craig´s claim for compensation for a brain injury in a farm accident was contested by the owners of the farm – John and Antoinette Imrie – who argued that they had fulfilled all duties of reasonable care towards Craig. However, although Lord Pentland absolved John Imrie of any responsibility for Craig´s accident, the judge found that Antoinette Imrie had not done enough to prevent the accident.

In a written verdict stating that Antoinette Imrie had failed in her duty to guarantee Craig´s safety, the judge found her liable for his injury and ordered that she pay £325,976 compensation for a brain injury in a farm accident.

Claim for Clinical Negligence Compensation Unresolved after Eighteen Years

A Teesside newspaper is reporting that a local family has waited eighteen years for a claim for clinical negligence compensation to be resolved.

According to GazetteLive.co.uk, the unnamed Teesside family has been waiting since 1998 for a claim for clinical negligence compensation to be resolved. The claim relates to alleged avoidable birth injuries suffered by their child during his delivery at a hospital within the North Tees and Hartlepool NHS Foundation Trust.

The paper states that this claim for clinical negligence compensation is the second-longest on record since the Clinical Negligence Scheme was set up for incidents that occurred since 1995, and that the NHS Trust has a contender for the third-longest claim on record – as another claim for clinical negligence compensation is still unresolved sixteen years after the alleged negligent event.

Mitigating circumstances for the delay are offered by the newspaper. It suggests that the extent of the child´s birth injuries and their future needs may not be fully apparent, and that the NHS Litigation Authority (NHSLA) – the body responsible for settling clinical negligence claims – may have been making interim compensation payments while the claim remains unresolved.

However, the news of such a lengthy delay in settling the claim comes less than two months after the NHSLA was criticised for defending claims for clinical negligence longer than necessary. Stephen Webber – chair of the Society of Clinical Injury Lawyers – said that the unnecessary delays caused the victims´ families preventable upset and inflated legal costs increased the burden on the taxpayer.

In respect of the delay experienced by the Teesside family, Deepak Dwarakanath – the Medical Director at North Tees and Hartlepool NHS Foundation Trust – told GazetteLive: “Claims are managed by the NHSLA on our behalf and their focus is on bringing resolution as quickly as possible to support families. Some birth injury claims may not be received for many years and can be extremely complex”.

He continued: “Payments and settlements for birth injuries generally have a lump sum payment followed by annual periodical payments over the life of the child. Once settled those cases with periodical payments are not closed down by the NHSLA until all payments are completed, which is why they continue to appear on the information shared.”

Thanet Council Fined for Vibration Injuries to Ground Maintenance Workers

Thanet Council has been fined £250,000 for vibration injuries to ground maintenance workers at the council´s cemeteries in Ramsgate and Margate.

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) launched an investigation into the working conditions at the two cemeteries after twelve workers were diagnosed with White Finger Vibration Syndrome and Hand-Arm Vibration Syndrome over a nine year period between 2005 and 2014.

The HSE´s investigators found that, until 2014, dozens of the council´s employees were exposed to “unacceptable levels” of vibration caused by repeated and prolonged use of grave digging tools, lawnmowers and other ground maintenance equipment for up to six hours a day.

According to the inspectors´ report, the vibration injuries to ground maintenance workers were attributable to Thanet Council´s failure to conduct a risk assessment or provide training in the safe use of vibrating tools. Forty more employees have now been referred to occupational health to assess their condition.

At Canterbury Crown Court, Judge Heather Norton said she had read reports from some of the affected staff at the Ramsgate and Margate cemeteries, and that they “make very sad reading”. Many are unable to return to work, while the vibration injuries to ground maintenance workers are affecting their home lives as well.

At the hearing to answer the charges of contravening the Control of Vibration at Work Regulation, a representative from Thanet Council read out an “unreserved apology” to the injured employees. In his statement he said the council has undertaken an extensive review of its policies and procedures to ensure this will not happen again.

“We have fundamentally changed our health and safety processes including extensive training and awareness campaigns for staff, as well as appointing a dedicated health and safety officer. With a number of new measures, tighter policies and procedures introduced and working closely with the HSE we are confident we have done all we can to mitigate this risk.”

Despite the apology and the measures taken to mitigate the risk of future vibration injuries to ground maintenance workers, the Court fined the council £250,000 and ordered that it should pay £18,325 in costs.

Settlement of Claim for the Delayed Diagnosis of an Infection

A multi-million pounds care package, negotiated in settlement of a claim for the delayed diagnosis of an infection, has been approved at the High Court.

On 16th December 2008, Martha Richardson-Rudd was born at the Royal Surrey County Hospital in Guildford with a Group B strep infection – a potentially serious disease in new born children even when it is identified at an early stage.

Unfortunately, Martha´s infection was not diagnosed until the following day, as a result of which she developed meningitis, cerebral palsy and severe brain damage. Her condition was so severe that Martha was put into an induced coma and spent the first two months of her life in a hospital incubator.

An investigation into how Martha´s infection had been overlooked for so long concluded that it had developed during pregnancy and could have been prevented altogether had Martha´s mother – Helen – had been given a Group B strep screening during her third trimester and prescribed antibiotics.

Helen and her husband – Adam – sought legal advice and made a claim for the delayed diagnosis of an infection against the Royal Surrey County Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, alleging that if Martha´s condition had been identified and treated in a timely manner she would not have suffered such devastating injuries.

The NHS Trust admitted liability in 2010, and negotiations started to settle the claim for the delayed diagnosis of an infection. At the High Court last week, judges heard how Martha is now a life-limited child who will need full-time care for the rest of her life. The judges also heard that the settlement package includes care, aids and equipment, suitable accommodation and therapy.

At the hearing a statement was also read to the family by a spokesperson for the NHS Trust. He said: “Royal Surrey County Hospital apologises unreservedly for delays in the diagnosis and treatment of Martha Richardson-Rudd following her birth in December 2008. “We hope that the compensation agreed at the High Court will go some way to assisting Martha’s family secure her future needs.”

Speaking after the settlement had been approved, Helen told her local newspaper that now the claim for the late diagnosis of an infection had been resolved, the family no longer have to worry about how they will be able to support Martha´s needs, can purchase suitable accommodation and put a full care package in place. “However”, Helen added “we will continue to worry about her every day that she lives and we cry for the person she will never be.”

Claim for Sickness on Holiday in Egypt Settled for £29,850

A family´s claim for sickness on holiday in Egypt, made after eleven of the thirteen family members suffered a stomach bug, has been settled for £29,850.

As a special treat for their family, Brian and Pamela Pilling from Chesham in Buckinghamshire paid more than £17,000 for a dream holiday at the five-star Sea Club Resort in Sharm el-Sheik, Egypt. The holiday was supposed to be an action-packed event that included trips to the beach, camel trekking and quad biking; but, from the fifth day of their stay at the resort, the family started to fall ill.

Brian (61), a retired labourer, was one of the first of the family members to develop the symptoms of a stomach bug.  “I thought at first it would just be a day thing, a little gastric upset but wow was I wrong” Brian told newspaper reporters. “In the end, we had to ask the hotel doctor to visit. He immediately put me on an intravenous rehydration with antibiotics and paracetamol.”

Brian was one of two family members that needed to be treated with intravenous rehydration and antibiotics, and in total eleven of the thirteen family members fell in on the trip – some experiencing symptoms that continued after the family returned home to the UK. Brian said: “The holiday was a great disappointment devastated by illness and I wish we had never gone.”

On their return to the UK, Brian and Pamela sought legal advice and made a claim for sickness on holiday in Egypt on behalf of the whole family. The claim against Thomson Holidays not only accounted for the pain and suffering of each family member, but also the amount of money the family spent on medical treatment in Egypt and the cost of the holiday.

Brian and Pamela alleged in their claim for sickness on holiday in Egypt that their illnesses were caused by the unhygienic conditions at the resort. Members of the family reported that food was not cooked properly and that sparrows were regularly seen around uncovered food. Thomson Holidays investigated the allegations, and the Pilling´s claim for sickness on holiday in Egypt has now been settled for £29,850.

Company Fined for Fatal Exposure to Toxic Vapour at Work

A chemical company in Grimsby has been fined £3 million for health and safety breaches that led to an employee´s fatal exposure to toxic vapour at work.

Paul Doyley (48) was working beneath a tank containing Titanium Tetrachloride at the Crystal Pigment UK Ltd chemical plant in Grimsby on 5th March 2010, when the chemical came into contact with water and created a chemical reaction. The force of the reaction ruptured the tank, and Paul was showered with corrosive liquid.

Two colleagues rushed to Paul´s assistance but, as the liquid came into contact with air, a further chemical reaction created a cloud of toxic vapour. Paul and one of his rescuers – Ron Ingoldby – were blanketed by the rapidly increasing toxic vapour cloud, both suffering severe lung damage. The second rescuer – Steve Russell – suffered chemical burns.

The toxic vapour cloud continued to expand and blew from the chemical plant across the River Humber – closing shipping lanes in the process. The Humberside Fire and Rescue Service was summoned, and the incident was brought under control after several hours – avoiding a potentially serious incident close to a heavily populated residential area.

Paul was taken to Wakefield´s Pinderfield Hospital, where he received specialist treatment for his chemical burns and exposure to toxic vapour at work. Tragically Paul died from his injuries two weeks later. Ron Ingoldby, the first of his colleagues to come to his aid, has suffered irreversible lung damage and a likely shortening of his life expectancy.

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) launched an investigation into the fatal exposure to toxic vapour at work incident and found that Crystal Pigment UK Ltd had deviated from the normal procedures for the safe management of Titanium Tetrachloride. Inspectors also identified a lack of safety procedures and systems of work to assess and control risk.

The HSE prosecuted Crystal Pigment UK Ltd for breaches of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 and the Control of Major Accident Hazards Regulations 1999 following a second Titanium Tetrachloride incident in July 2011 in which nobody was injured. The company pleaded guilty to the charges, and a sentencing hearing took place at Hull Crown Court earlier this week.

At the hearing, the court issued fines totalling £3 million for the failures in health and safety that resulted in a fatal exposure to toxic vapour at work. The court also ordered Crystal Pigment UK Ltd to pay £37,868 for the costs associated with bringing the prosecution.

Discrimination against Cancer Victims Returning to Work

Discrimination against cancer victims returning to work can be as high as 18% according to research released by Macmillan Cancer Support and YouGov.

The research was based on the experiences of 836 employees who had been diagnosed with cancer, undergone treatment and then returned to work. Researchers found that nearly a fifth (18%) had been discriminated against by their employer or a work colleague.

The charity reported that the vast majority of people in work when they were diagnosed with cancer returned to work because it was important to them. 60% of respondents said that they wanted to “maintain a sense of normality”, while 45% said they enjoyed their job and 54% cited the reason for returning to work as needing the money.

Macmillan Cancer Support said it was “worrying” that 15% of those surveyed said that they had returned to work before they felt ready, while 35% reported negative experiences unrelated to workplace discrimination against cancer victims returning to work. This category included feelings of guilt for taking time off to attend hospital appointments and a loss of confidence in their ability to do their job.

The charity warned that employers must take measures to prevent discrimination against cancer victims returning to work. Due to improvements in survival rates and later retirement ages, the number of people returning to work after undergoing treatment for cancer has been predicted to reach 1.7 million by 2030. Liz Egan – a spokesperson for Macmillan Cancer Support – said:

“People living with cancer should know that they have the full support of their employer to return to work, if they want and are able to do so. It’s appalling that, during an already difficult and often stressful time, so many employers are not offering the right support to people with cancer, leaving them with little choice but to leave.

“We know that, for many people living with cancer, work helps them to feel more in control and maintain a sense of normality. Returning to work after cancer can also be an integral part of their recovery, so it is crucial that employers show support and understanding to make this a reality.”