50-year old, Barry Woodley, is reported in the Metro to be advancing a noise induced hearing loss (NIHL) claim against the Ministry of Defence (MoD) for negligently exposing him to prolonged, excessive noise levels in the course of his employment in the Royal Navy.[i]
This case is 1 of around 3,000 military deafness claims, currently being defended by the UK Government. For synopses of other claims in progress, read our articles in editions 316 (here), 317 (here) and 320 (here) of BC Disease News.
Mr. Woodley’s legal representatives aver that ‘the defendant failed to advise the claimant of the dangers of exposure to loud noise, the possible consequences of such exposure and things – such as hearing problems or tinnitus – to look out for’, with court documents alleging that the MoD (superior Navy Chiefs) failed to provide adequate hearing protection and other safety measures.
His first recollected incident of weaponry-related noise was the ‘boom of the field gun’ as a sea cadet, in the cadet version of the Navy’s iconic field gun competition (discontinued in 1999). It is said that this was the ‘root’ of his disability.
Enrolling onto military service in 1987, aged 16, Mr. Woodley ostensibly went on to experience noisy conditions during training and this continued throughout his 27-year career. Noise came from rifle, machine gun and field gun fire, power boats, ships, sonar and helicopters.
With passing time, it is alleged that his hearing gradually worsened and became noticeable when he joined the Type 42 Destroyer HMS Liverpool, in 2009. In June of that year, Mr. Woodley was first diagnosed with hearing loss and was ‘medically downgraded’ soon after.
When Mr. Woodley was discharged from the Navy on medical grounds, in 2014, he was serving as a Chief Petty Officer.
The MoD has admitted breach of duty, but quantum and limitation elements of the claim remain disputed.
Total damages sought are in the region of £900,000. It is conceivable that, aside from general damages, a significant portion of the compensation will relate to lost future job prospects – Mr. Woodley is currently working as an engineer for a printing company. Another head of loss will presumably be the cost of hearing aids, which Mr. Woodley requires.
Yet, the MoD insists that his claim would only be worth £60,000, were it to succeed.
[i] Harrison Jones, ‘Veteran sues Navy for £900,000 over hearing loss from noise of guns’ (21 April 2021 Metro) <https://metro.co.uk/2021/04/21/veteran-sues-navy-for-900000-over-hearing-loss-from-guns-14451547/> accessed 28 April 2021.