Case study: £72,000 awarded in Legionnaires’ disease claim
Our industrial disease solicitors recently secured a £72,000 settlement for a client whose partner died following exposure to legionella bacteria whilst staying at a guest house.
Our client, Ms B, made a claim for loss of dependency after her partner, Mr Y, died from Legionnaires’ disease following a stay at a guest house while working away.
At the time of his death, Mr Y was working as a crane operator and collapsed at work and was taken to hospital by ambulance. He was diagnosed with legionella pneumonia and spent roughly five days in Intensive Care before he passed away.
Public Health England was informed of Mr Y’s death and subsequently carried out an inspection of the guest house. The inspection identified legionella bacteria in the water supply, which matched the strain found in Mr Y’s body.
Ms B had been in a relationship with Mr Y for over 27 years and their household income largely came from Mr Y’s work. In addition to his income, Mr Y also did most of the DIY and gardening for the home, which Ms B struggled to do herself after his death.
Starting the industrial disease claim
Ms B instructed our specialist industrial disease solicitors after her previous solicitors terminated their agreement, as they could not trace the insurer for the company they regarded as responsible for her husband’s death and considered that the claim lacked prospects.
When our personal injury solicitors first took on Ms B’s Claim, we were given access to the files of her previous solicitors. After examining the papers, it became clear that there were four potential Defendants: the landowner, the managing company and two joint tenants. One of the joint tenants also held a House of Multiple Occupancy (HMO) license for the property; they were prosecuted and received a fine for breaches of the HMO license as a result of the contaminated water supply.
To find out who the claim should be brought against, our lawyers reviewed a copy of the lease agreement for the property and considered that the management company and the tenant holding the HMO license both held some responsibility for the maintenance and cleanliness of the water supply, and this is who we pursued the claim against.
Both Defendants were uninsured, which could have resulted in Ms B being unable to recover compensation if they did not have the assets to meet the claim. However, after conducting several searches and seeking advice from Counsel, it was considered that they would be able to afford to pay any award made by the court. As a result, claims were pursued against both parties.
Confirming the cause of death
Our Personal Injury team sent copies of Mr Y’s medical records to a specialist to determine the cause of Mr Y’s death.
An expert medical report confirmed that Mr Y’s exposure to Legionella through the water supply was likely to be the source of the Legionnaires infection, which ultimately was the cause of his death.
Denial of liability
After notifying the Defendants of Ms B’s intention to bring a claim, both Defendants denied liability. We therefore advised Ms B to issue formal court proceedings.
After receiving the court papers, both Defendants failed to file an acknowledgement or defence, so we requested a Default Judgment against the Defendants, which was granted by the court. Default Judgement essentially resolves the issue of who was at fault and the Claimant then only needs to prove how much the claim is worth.
The Defendants made an application to the court to set aside judgment in the case, which we disputed, and the court dismissed. This meant that liability was no longer an issue, and our solicitors could focus on valuing Ms B’s claim and negotiating how much compensation she should receive.
At a CCMC (Costs and Case Management Conference), the court gave the parties directions for the exchange of evidence, such as medical reports, to ensure the case was ready for trial.
Agreeing a settlement
Following the disclosure of Ms B’s witness evidence and the medical evidence, various offers were made and the claim settled for a costs-inclusive sum of £72,000.
Ms B was pleased with the compensation she received, especially considering her previous solicitors had terminated her agreement before she came to Barcan+Kirby.