Sensitised employees seek legal action against Johnson Matthey

Workers who became sensitised to metal while working for Johnson Matthey are seeking legal action at the Supreme Court against the firm.

The chemical and bullion company originally won the case at the court of appeal in London early this year against five former employees, with the judge ruling that “the law does not furnish a remedy for every harm suffered.”

In a new case against the company, former employees Waynsworth Dryden, Simon York and Tony Cipullo are seeking compensation of up to £800,000 after they were made unemployed after becoming sensitised.

In the initial stages of becoming sensitised to metal there are no visible symptoms and the condition is identified by the reaction of a skin-prick test. However, prolonged exposure can result in symptoms of allergies including bronchial problems, skin irritation and running nose or eyes.

It was found that employees at the Johnson Matthey company who become sensitised were dismissed or redeployed and compensated with an amount totaling just three months’ pay.

Appeal findings

In an appeal court judgement Lord Sales said: “On the medical evidence, platinum sensitisation is not harmful in itself in any relevant sense. It is a physiological change analogous to the development of pleural plaques [an early but non-cancerous sign of exposure to asbestos] in the lungs … and hence does not constitute actionable damage or injury.

“The removal of the appellants from their jobs was detrimental for them in financial terms. But as the judge observed, this was a form of pure economic loss. The presence of such economic loss does not convert a physiological change which does not in itself qualify as an actionable injury into such an injury.”

Further legal action

The former employees have said they are determined to pursue legal action against the firm and are currently waiting for their case to be accepted by Supreme Court.

Mr York who started working at Johnson Matthey in 2008 said: “I was diagnosed with platinum allergy and my world fell apart … This was an extremely stressful time in all of our lives and with the whole country in recession, finding a job was impossible, let alone a well-paid one.”

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