Thousands of claims by sick miners for negligent compensation advice could hit the courts, a solicitor representing the first victim of negligent advice to have his case decided has warned.
Robert Godfrey, partner and head of professional negligence at Oldham firm Mellor Hargreaves, represented former coal miner Ronald Barnaby, who was awarded nearly £7,500 in damages in a claim for professional negligence against Yorkshire firm Raleys at Leeds County Court.
Barnaby instructed Raleys in 2009 in respect of a claim under the government’s coal health compensation scheme, which provided tariff-based compensation for miners who had developed vibration white finger.
He settled the claim for general damages and handicap on the labour market for the sum of £10,822 and abandoned a ‘services’ claim made for assistance he required in respect of household tasks.
Barnaby claimed that he abandoned his services claim as a consequence of negligent advice by the defendant.
Raleys argued that Barnaby had been competently advised and decided not to pursue his claim for his own reasons.
Ruling that Raleys had been negligent in failing to advise Barnaby of the possible value of his services claim and the prospect of success, Judge Gosnell said: ‘On balance, if properly advised, I find that he (Barnaby) would probably have rejected the offer and pursued the services claim.’
This is believed to have been the first such case to come to court, although others have settled.
Raleys’ managing partner Carol Gill said: ‘We are very disappointed with the judgment in this individual case and are considering an appeal.’