Win in Supreme Court for Rob Weir QC

In Dryden v Johnson Matthey plc [2018] UKSC 18, the Supreme Court had to decide whether the claimants had sustained an actionable personal injury.  They had negligently been exposed to platinum salts at work as a result of which they had become platinum sensitised.   Platinum sensitisation is symptomless.  Further exposure to platinum salts will likely lead to platinum allergy which is symptomatic.  To prevent the employees developing the allergy, their employer removed them from that part of the factory where they were exposed to platinum salts.  This led to their suffering loss of earnings.

In the High Court and Court of Appeal, they had been denied a remedy on the basis that their claim was, in truth, one for economic loss only (for which it was said they were not owed a relevant duty of care).   

Rob Weir QC, who had not appeared below, contended that the platinum sensitisation on its own constituted actionable personal injury.  It was enough that the claimants had experienced a physical change to their body which made them appreciably worse off in their health of capability because these claimants were now unfit for their work, which was a real loss of amenity for them.

Lady Black, giving the only judgment, with which the other 4 Supreme Court Judges agreed, accepted the claimants’ case.   As Lady Black put it at para 40: “What has happened to the claimants is that their bodily capacity for work has been impaired and they are therefore significantly worse off.”

Rob Weir QC and Patrick Kerr acted for the claimants, instructed by Harminder Bains of Leigh Day.

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