In edition 262 of BC Disease News (here), we reported that a 39-year-old, former Royal Marines Platoon Weapons Instructor, Alistair Inglis, was pursuing a £1,275,899 million claim for noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL) and tinnitus, allegedly caused by the Ministry of Defence’s (MoD) negligence.
It was the claimant’s pleaded case that, for 1 and a half decades, he experienced ‘a combination of both training and combat exposure’ to weapon and vehicle noise, which resulted in hearing impairment supposedly ‘equivalent to that of a man in his early 70s’. He served in Northern Ireland and Helmand province, Afghanistan.
Hugh James (the claimant’s solicitors), summarised the claimant’s submissions, as follows:
‘Essentially, we say he was not given the right protective equipment to mitigate against noise exposure. We also say that hearing tests he had in the Marines did not pick up the level of hearing loss from which he now suffers’.
The trial of liability, listed to be heard at the High Court this month, was a potential landmark case. It was going to be the first its kind to tackle the issue of when military personnel are owed a duty of care.
High ranking military officials are of the opinion that ‘combat’ activity should be immune from legal action, while claimant lawyers argue that the MoD’s duty to safeguard its servicemen and women does not cease after troops leave the training ground.
Some considered Mr Inglis’ claim to be a test case for future military deafness litigation, which is the most common type of service-related claim. The MoD is currently facing 200 similar claims.
However, this week, the Telegraph reported that the ex-military man has reached an out-of-court agreement with the MoD on issues of liability.
At the High Court on Monday, claimant counsel told Judge Peter Marquand that issues had been resolved ‘80:20 in the claimant's favour’.[i]
It is now necessary for Mr Marquand to determine a suitable award of damages.
The claimant’s schedule of loss sought general and special damages (loss of future earnings, loss of pension and for the cost of hearing aids), but the MoD insists that he should only be awarded general damages and the cost of hearing aids.
The claimant argues that he left his ‘lucrative line of work’, including the right to receive a full pension (after 22 years of service), ‘for the sole reason that he had concerns about his deteriorating levels of hearing’:
‘[It was] highly unlikely that [Mr Inglis] would have abandoned his successful military career and those mid-term financial rewards had it not been for his noise-induced hearing problems’.[ii]
Whereas, the MoJ contends that he left voluntarily, while still ‘fit for all duties’, with ‘no prospect of being medically discharged’. Should he have stayed in his role, MoD witness, Sam Healey, wrote that it was ‘likely that [Mr Inglis] would have been offered employment in a specialisation with reduced noise exposure’.
Mr Healey further asserted that his subsequent job role, in maritime security, was not only ‘an occupation that involves exposure to gunfire’, but also paid him ‘considerably more’ than as a Royal Marines Sergeant. His post-injury civilian salary (his current Health and Safety Office role) was also deemed to be ‘broadly similar’ to his earnings ‘had he not suffered noise-induced hearing loss’.
[i] Dominic Nicholls, Former Royal Marine reaches agreement with MoD after suing for hearing loss (4 March 2019 The Telegraph) <https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2019/03/04/former-royal-marine-reaches-agreement-mod-suing-hearing-loss/> accessed 6 March 2019.
[ii] ‘MOD Admits Liability For Ex-Royal Marine's Hearing Loss’ (4 March 2019 Forces Network) <https://www.forces.net/news/mod-admits-liability-ex-royal-marines-hearing-loss> accessed 7 March 2019.