Injured Ex-Miner Succeeds in Professional Negligence Claim

A principal reason why negligence victims should always instruct expert solicitors to represent them is that, in the rare event that they do not do their job properly, any loss suffered will be covered by professional indemnity insurance. That point was made in a Court of Appeal case concerning a former coal miner left disabled by prolonged use of vibrating tools in the course of his work.

The miner was one of many who worked in the industry who developed a debilitating condition known as vibration white finger. Solicitors acting on his behalf had negotiated an £11,660 settlement of his claim against the then Department of Trade and Industry after the latter established a compensation scheme to deal with numerous such claims against nationalised coal companies.

He later launched proceedings against the solicitors, arguing that the agreed sum did not take account of his inability to perform such services for his family as gardening, DIY and car maintenance. The solicitors ultimately accepted his argument, but his claim was nevertheless dismissed by a judge on the basis that the solicitors' conduct had not caused him to settle his case at an undervalue.

In upholding the man's challenge to that ruling, the Court found that the judge in the lower court was wholly wrong to require him to prove, many years after the event, that he had been genuinely unable to perform the relevant services. Instead of basing his decision on expert medical reports, the judge had focused on anecdotal evidence, including Facebook entries. He could not have rationally concluded on the basis of such flimsy evidence that the man, his wife and two sons had all given false evidence.

In the circumstances, the Court ordered the solicitors to pay him £14,556 in damages, plus interest.