In edition 317 of BC Disease News (here), we reported on a noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL) claim, valued at £142,000, which was being advanced by 34-year-old, Louis Kinsley, formerly of the Royal Engineers corps in the British Armed Forces.
We identified that there had been a noticeable increase in media spotlight on civil compensation claims, commenced against the Ministry of Defence (MoD).
Subsequently, on 30 December 2020, The Daily Mail published details of a High Court writ, in respect of a NIHL claim, pursued by a former Glaswegian soldier.[i]
Seeking £715,366.22 in damages, Alistair Black, aged 41, maintains that when he joined the British Army, in 1996, his hearing was ‘perfect’.
However, over the course of 21-years of service, he alleges that he was exposed to excessive noise levels when travelling in military transport and each time he ‘zeroed’ weapons, including machine guns, rifles, grenades, rocket launchers. Further, that exposure to gunfire is responsible for his NIHL and tinnitus that he now suffers from.
Having been medically discharged in March 2017, the Daily Mail reveals that the claim was issued outside of the 3-year limitation period for personal injuries, supposedly because he ‘did not realise he could claim’ until prompted to on a veterans forum.
Should Mr. Black’s inevitable application to disapply the primary limitation period be successful, under s.33 of the Limitation Act 1980, the High Court will proceed to hear that the MoD was negligent in its role as employer.
Written accusations of negligence, purported in the writ, include the fact that the MoD failed to provide and enforce the wearing of adequate and correctly-fitted ear/noise protection (defenders, earplugs, ear muffs, etc.). Additionally, that it failed to warn of the dangers of exposure to excessive noise exposure, in part, by failing to heed information and warnings in circulating medical and industrial publications.
Anecdotally, Mr. Black recollects a live firing exercise in Catterick, Northern Ireland, in 1997, during which he was ostensibly ordered by trainers to leave one of his ears uncovered (by ear defenders), in order for him to hear instructions. Towards the latter stages of his basic training, he was informed that his sense of hearing was ‘poor’ and that he could not continue until clinicians had assessed him. He spent 2-months waiting in a holding platoon, but exposure to noise did not cease, because hearing protection was not worn.
Despite having been generally confined to office-based work from 2000 until the end of his Army career, he was deployed to Northern Ireland nine times and served in Germany, Bosnia, Kenya, Kosovo, Iraq, the Falklands, Cyprus, and Afghanistan. Every year, he undertook weapons training and fieldcraft exercises, with a sustained element of noise exposure.
It is understood that the claimant will be seeking digital hearing aids and this will likely account for a substantial proportion of his Schedule of Loss, alongside other heads of special damages, such as future loss of earnings and loss of pension.
[i] Katie Feehan, ‘Ex-soldier, 41, sues Ministry of Defence for £700,000 because loud machine guns, grenades and rocket launchers damaged his hearing’ (30 December 2020 Daily Mail) <https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-9099471/Ex-soldier-41-sues-MoD-700k-claiming-loud-machine-guns-weapons-damaged-hearing.html> accessed 6 January 2021.