Supreme Court Challenge Could Result In Landmark Compensation Ruling


The Law Of... challenging a ruling from the court of appeal

Three former employees of speciality chemicals and sustainable technologies firm, Johnson Matthey, are attempting to challenge a Court of Appeals decision in the Supreme Court, in a case that could have wide reaching implications for the claims industry.

Continued exposure to the precious metal platinum, as well as platinum salts, can cause individuals to become 'sensitised' to the metal

Evaluating the details of the case, Phillip Gower – Partner in Industrial Disease at Simpson Millar LLP – explains the effect the case could have on UK law.

Becoming Sensitised To Metal

Continued exposure to the precious metal platinum, as well as platinum salts, can cause individuals to become 'sensitised' to the metal, meaning that they have an allergy-like reaction when they come into contact with the element.

Symptoms of platinosis, which is the term given to the allergy-like reactions to exposure to platinum salts, include asthma and dermatitis.

Becoming sensitised to the metal during their time at Johnson Matthey, the 3 employees lost their job at the firm, as they were no longer able to work around the metal.

After losing their high-paying jobs at the chemical firm, the 3 employees made a claim against Johnson Matthey for loss of earnings, however their case has thus far been unsuccessful and a Court of Appeal dismissed their claim earlier this year.

They are now attempting to crowdfund a challenge to the Supreme Court, as they cannot receive legal aid and do not have the resources to fight a potentially expensive legal battle.

Employers' Duty Of Care

Sensitisation is a condition that does not reveal itself immediately, with symptoms going largely unnoticed during the initial stages – a skin-prick test is usually required to discover whether the condition has been developed.

Reports claim that employees that become sensitised to platinum salts at Johnson Matthey are either redeployed to another area of work, or dismissed altogether.

It is claimed that Johnson Matthey failed in their duty of care to employees, as factories were not properly cleaned – with the firm even conceding that it had breached workplace health and safety regulations, as well as policies relating to the control of hazardous substances.

As the Supreme Court only rules on significant legal questions, a ruling from the final court of appeal for UK civil cases could set a binding precedent that could affect employer's duty of care, with the outcome of this case likely followed by civil lawyers across the country.

Commenting on the case, Phillip said:

"Like most industrial disease lawyers, I am keeping a keen eye on the legal action being pursued by 3 ex-employees of Johnson Matthey and their appeal to the Supreme Court."

"It is not unusual for employees in this industry to be exposed to platinum and platinum salts and then to become sensitised – this can result in them losing their jobs as continued exposure to platinum salts can cause significant, long-lasting problems."

"I know in the past that Johnson Matthey has settled a large number of claims of this nature; however the case in the Supreme Court raises a very significant legal question regarding compensation for injuries – particularly where symptoms can be minor – as well as claims for future loss of earnings."

"I can only hope that sufficient money and funds can be raised to assist these 3 claimants. My concern is that the restriction of legal funding and legal aid introduced by the current Government will severely affect their ability to pursue this case and their appeal to the Supreme Court."

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