Dryden and Others v Johnson Matthey Plc: SC 21 Mar 2018

Sensitisation to salt can be personal injury

The claimants, had developed platinum salt sensitisation due to the defendant employer’s breach of health and safety regulations and common law duty, claimed a cause of action for personal injury. Platinum salt sensitisation is, in itself, an asymptomatic condition but further exposure to chlorinated platinum salts is likely to cause someone with platinum salt sensitisation to develop an allergic reaction involving physical symptoms such as running eyes or nose, skin irritation, and bronchial problems.
Held: The claimants’ appeal was allowed. The claimants had suffered what counted as bodily damage sufficient to found and action for personal injury.
Held: A hidden and symptomless but non-negligible physical change was actionable: ‘ The physiological changes to the claimants’ bodies may not be as obviously harmful as, say, the loss of a limb, or asthma or dermatitis, but harmful they undoubtedly are. Cartledge establishes that the absence of symptoms does not prevent a condition amounting to actionable personal injury, and an acceptance of that is also implicit in the sun sensitivity example, in which the symptoms would only be felt upon exposure to sunshine, just as the symptoms here would only be felt upon exposure to platinum salts. What has happened to the claimants is that their bodily capacity for work has been impaired and they are therefore significantly worse off. They have, in my view, suffered actionable bodily damage, or personal injury, which, given its impact on their lives, is certainly more than negligible.’
Lady Black, with whom the other Justices of the Supreme Court agreed, said that, as well as the usual reference to pain, suffering and loss of amenity, personal injury has been considered to consist of a physical change which makes the claimant appreciably worse off in respect of his or her health or capability and as including an injury sustained to a person’s physical capacity of enjoying life. She concluded that what had happened to the claimants was that their bodily capacity for work had been impaired and, therefore, they were significantly worse off: they had suffered actual bodily damage, or personal injury, which, given its impact on their lives, was more than negligible.

Lady Hale, President, Lord Wilson, Lord Reed, Lady Black, Lord Lloyd-Jones
[2018] UKSC 18, [2018] ICR 715, (2018) 161 BMLR 1, [2018] WLR(D) 182, [2018] PIQR P12, [2018] 2 WLR 1109, UKSC 2016/0140
Bailii, Bailii Summary, WLRD, SC, SC Summary, SC Video Summary, SC 27 Nov 17 am, SC 27 Nov 17 pm, SC 28 Nov 17 am
England and Wales
At QBDGreenway and Others v Johnson Matthey Plc QBD 26-Nov-2014
The five claimants had been employed by the defendant. Whilst at work, and in breach of Health an Safety regulations, they had been exposed to complex halogenated platinum salts, and now claimed a sensitisation to such salts. The defendant argued . .
At CAGreenway and Others v Johnson Matthey Plc CA 28-Apr-2016
The claimants had been exposed to platinum salts while employed by the defendant company in breach of the employer’s duties in negligence and Health and Safety. Though they had suffered no symptoms, they claimed in damages. The employer said that no . .
CitedCartledge v E Jopling and Sons Ltd HL 1963
The plaintiffs were steel dressers who, in the course of their employment, had inhaled quantities of noxious dust which had caused them to suffer from pneumoconiosis. They issued proceedings on 1 October 1956 but were unable to show any breach of . .
CitedJohnston v NEI International Combustion Ltd; Rothwell v Chemical and Insulating Co Ltd; similar HL 17-Oct-2007
The claimant sought damages for the development of neural plaques, having been exposed to asbestos while working for the defendant. The presence of such plaques were symptomless, and would not themselves cause other asbestos related disease, but . .
CitedFair v London and North Western Rly Co QBD 1869
In actions for personal injuries, the court is constantly required to form an estimate of chances and risks which cannot be determined with anything like precision; for example, the possibility that the injury will improve, or deteriorate, or the . .

Cited by:
CitedNetwork Rail Infrastructure Ltd v Williams and Another CA 3-Jul-2018
Japanese Knotweed escape is nuisance
The defendant appealed against an order as to its liability in private nuisance for the escape of Japanese Knotweed from its land onto the land of the claimant neighbours. No physical damage to properties had yet been shown, but the reduction in . .
CitedPaul and Another v The Royal Wolverhampton NHS Trust QBD 4-Jun-2020
Nervous shock – liability to third parties
The claimants witnessed the death of their father from a heart attack. They said that the defendant’s negligent treatment allowed the attack to take place. Difficult point of law about the circumstances in which a defendant who owes a duty of care . .

Lists of cited by and citing cases may be incomplete.

Negligence, Personal Injury

Updated: 02 November 2021; Ref: scu.608730