RD v. The Secretary of State for Defence – Birmingham

The Claimant was employed by the Defendant as a painter between 1990 and 2011.  During that time, he was exposed to various products with high toxic potential, including lead, chromium, isocyanate based products.

During the course of his employment, the Claimant suffered the onset of various respiratory symptoms including persistent cough, bouts of breathlessness, impaired senses of smell and taste.  He had been a smoker for some years, but after extensive testing he was diagnosed with occupational asthma, due to the exposure received.

A claim was made to his employers based on various breaches of duty including, amongst others, failure to provide appropriate masking, failure to provide appropriate ventilation/extraction of the workplace, failing to factor the risk to respiratory/pulmonary health by the use of same products, failure to provide appropriate warnings and to rotate employee use of those products, to minimise the potential for harmful exposure.

Liability was initially denied, resulting in the issue of proceedings.  In order to establish liability it was necessary to arrange multiple expert input – chest physician, occupational hygiene, consultant engineer.

Though strongly contested by the Defendant, substantial compensation were recovered for general damages (pain, suffering and loss of amenity) as well as loss of earnings – by the time of his diagnosis, the Claimant was almost 60 years.  But for the onset of his symptoms and the medical advice received, he would otherwise have continued in his employment until age 70.[1]

[1]              There were difficulties in securing disclosure of a large amount of product documentation and reports obtained by the employer.  Due to this, a number of Court Orders were obtained to compel their disclosure.


Posted on

23rd August 2017