Three men who worked for the FTSE 100 listed Johnson Matthey Plc are seeking to take legal action against the company after it caused them to be ‘sensitised’ to the chemicals the men worked with, but the company have refused to pay the men any compensation.
Waynsworth Dryden, Tony Cipullo and Simon York worked in Johnson Matthey’s chemical plants refining metals to make catalytic converters. Platinum salts can be released into the air during this process.
Johnson Matthey admitted that they had exposed the men to harmful levels of these salts. This exposure to the salts meant that all three men became ‘sensitised’, meaning that the men can no longer work in an environment where these salts might be present. The men were all dismissed, losing their livelihoods.
In November 2014 the men took the Johnson Matthey to the High Court and the company admitted it had been negligent, but argued it was not legally responsible for the lost wages as, they argued, the men were not ‘injured’. They said that it did not matter – legally speaking – that the men had been dismissed.
The Courts accepted this argument. Earlier this year the men challenged this verdict at the Court of Appeal.
The Court of Appeal decided that what the men were asking them to decide upon was so significant, and novel, that it could only be achieved at the level of the Supreme Court and therefore refused to overturn the decision of the judge in the High Court.
The three men are now looking to challenge the Court of Appeal decision in the Supreme Court and have launched a crowdfunding page to protect them from having to pay the company’s costs should they not be successful in the Supreme Court. The legal team believe that the men have a strong and just case to win.
In a joint statement published on their crowd funding page, the men describe the impact of the decision on their lives:
“The effects on our lives and those of our families have been huge. We have lost our jobs through no fault of our own. The effects are not simply financial but relate to all those things that go with having a secure job – that you trained for and enjoyed – but can no longer do.
“However, Johnson Matthey have refused to compensate us for the effects of their negligence because they say that we have not sustained ‘legal injury’. They basically say we have to be suffering from symptoms.
“This never used to be their approach. In the past, Johnson Matthey would accept responsibility where workers like us had been affected. But they decided to make a ‘test case’ out of our situation. They want to avoid accepting responsibility for those who have the same problem in the future.
“We think that they should keep the factory clean and safe rather than trying to avoid responsibility afterwards.”
Lawyer Harminder Bains from the industrial diseases team at Leigh Day, who is representing the men on a ‘no-win no-fee’ basis, said: “Johnson Matthey have for years paid compensation to our clients’ fellow employees who have been similarly been affected by these chemicals for many years. This case is highly significant because Johnson Matthey accept that they negligently exposed them to dangerous levels of platinum salts. However, they have refused to pay compensation. If we do no win this case in the Supreme Court, other employers may use this case to side-step their responsibilities with regards to health and safety, and negligently expose others to hazardous work conditions.”
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I am 59 years old, a devoted family man with a wife, a daughter at university and a son who will be doing "A" level exams in 2017. I had a wonderful job as a Chemical Process Operator at Johnson Matthey that fulfilled my financial, social and educational needs and development.
We now live in an era where people change jobs frequently, but that wasn’t me. I saw a future with this company to my retirement age. In January 2009, my world crumbled like a building demolished by an earthquake.
My job was untimely ripped from me when I was made redundant, all because I had become sensitised to materials that I had to work with. I had followed the Health and Safety rules and always used my personal protective devices and yet still I became sensitised.
All attempts to find alternative employment within the company failed. My search for employment in the harsh economic climate at the time was challenging and it took me one year to find employment. I had to resign from that job after a year due to the distances I had to travel and the time I was away from home.
This was important because my wife had a car accident, which caused her to be unable to carry on with her day to day life without my help. I have not been successful in obtaining employment since 2012. My constant search each day has left me depressed and absolutely frustrated. I am reaching out to you, in my hour of need, because I do not have the resources to do it on my own.
I need your assistance to help to take my case to the Supreme Court because sensitisation has caused me pain, suffering and financial loss.
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I am 42 and a father of three children and live in North London. I started to work for Johnson Matthey as an operator and worked my way up to Team Leader. I also became Site Secretary for the Trade Union.
I always showed a willingness to learn, and would have picked up any type of work they offered me. I believe that the work I did for the Trade Union and other employees was the main reason Johnson Matthey refused to find me an alternative position when I was diagnosed with the sensitisation to platinum salts.
Since leaving, my wife has had to return to full time employment and my kids are looked after by friends as we cannot afford child care. The kids have not had a proper holiday in 5 years, and the youngest is too young to remember the holiday.
The situation has left me depressed that I can no longer provide for my family. The children understand that I cannot afford to send them on school trips, buy them toys or take them on holiday, but it still eats me inside. The loss, of not only a good wage, but a really fantastic job I loved, has had a devastating effect on me.
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I'm 46 and have 3 wonderful children. I started work for Johnson Matthey in 2008 where I earned a good wage for a skilled position in the platinum area. This wage would have allowed me to buy a home large enough to house my growing family. However, I was diagnosed with platinum allergy and my world fell apart.
By this point, we had another little one on the way and we were half way through moving home. 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. The whole family has suffered as a result of me losing my job, not just me.
I am now working 6 days a week, which means I miss out on quality family time, outings and events, and I am struggling financially.