Sutton v British Telecommunications PLC [14.06.13]

Claimant had not shown that his mild hearing loss was noise induced.

Implications

This is a very useful case for defendants and their insurers. It reiterates that causation is normally key to these claims and that the claimant's medical evidence should be challenged in appropriate cases. This is particularly pertinent when the alleged noise induced hearing loss (NIHL) is only mild.

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Background

The Claimant, aged 46, alleged that he had suffered NIHL, tinnitus and hyperacusis as the result of exposure to loud noise in the course of his work with the Defendant. He claimed that he suffered NIHL from the use of equipment including tone sets, which were used to produce and detect sounds on a line during cable changing, fault-finding and cable jointing.

There was no dispute that the Claimant was negligently exposed to excessive noise from his use of the tone sets. The issue was whether or not the Claimant’s mild hearing loss was or was not noise induced.

Decision

His Honour Judge Curran QC dismissed the claim:

  • He was unable to accept that the Claimant was an open, frank and straightforward witness on all matters of fact. For example, he deliberately minimised his motorcycling activities to the doctors because he perceived them to be unhelpful to his claim.
  • On matters such as the existence and degree of tinnitus and hyperacusis everything depends on the truthfulness and reliability of the sufferer, since there is no means of objectively confirming the condition.
  • The evidence of the Defendant’s ENT expert, Dr Yeoh, was to be preferred to that of the Claimant’s ENT expert, Mr Clayton, on every point on which they disagreed.
  • Considering all the evidence, medical causation had not been established by the Claimant. In addition, on the balance of probabilities, the hearing loss suffered by the Claimant was not NIHL.