‘Toxic Sofas’ litigation returns to the High Court

The 'Toxic Sofas' litigation returned to the High Court this week when Mr Justice MacDuff approved an innovative draft claims handling agreement.

Thought to be the largest group litigation about a consumer product in British legal history, over 4,500 claimants are claiming more than £10m from 14 high street stores, including Land of Leather, Homebase and Argos, after they allegedly sold contaminated leather furniture.

Colin Mendoza was instructed by Stephen Covell of Bond Pearce LLP for Creation Consumer Finance in relation to aspects of the personal injury litigation. Creation was joined as a defendant in relation to claims under the Consumer Credit Act 1974 for sofas bought using its credit facilities.

The claims handling agreement includes a matrix for the calculation of general damages, allowing all parties to accurately assess damages based on a series of objective criteria. Severe cases, including those involving in-patient hospitilisation, remain outside the proposed agreement.

The approval of the agreement, which preserves claimants’ entitlement to bring unitary court proceedings if they wish, brings clarity to the damages and costs elements of thousands of claims.

Earlier this year, the Commercial Court gave judgment on the preliminary insurance aspects of the ‘Toxic Sofas’ litigation: Horwood v Land of Leather (in administration) & Zurich Insurance plc[2010] EWHC 546 (Comm). Colin Edelman QC and Andrew Burns were instructed by Wendy Hopkins of Beachcroft for Zurich, the insurers of Land of Leather, in the insurance aspects of the case. Mr Justice Teare decided the preliminary issues in favour of the insurer.

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