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England and Wales Court of Appeal (Civil Division) Decisions
You are here: BAILII >> Databases >> England and Wales Court of Appeal (Civil Division) Decisions >> Griffin & Ors v Clwyd Health Authority & Ors  EWCA Civ 818 (14 May 2001)
Cite as:  EWCA Civ 818,  PIQR P31,  P1QR P31
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IN THE COURT OF APPEAL (CIVIL DIVISION)
ON APPEAL FROM THE QUEEN'S BENCH DIVISION
MANCHESTER DISTRICT REGISTRY
(Mr R D Machell QC: sitting as a Deputy High Court Judge)
Monday, 14th May 2001
B e f o r e :
LORD JUSTICE BUXTON
LORD JUSTICE JONATHAN PARKER
|(1) ANNETTE GRIFFIN|
|(2) BARBARA LAWSON|
|(3) JENNIFER WILLIAMS|
|- v -|
|(1) CLWYD HEALTH AUTHORITY|
|(2) PETER COX ENVIRONMENTAL SERVICES LIMITED|
|(3) VERMINEX LIMITED|
|(4) TEIFI LIMITED|
|(5) ACTION PEST CONTROL LIMITED|
Smith Bernal Reporting Limited, 190 Fleet Street,
London EC4A 2AG
Tel: 0171 421 4040
Official Shorthand Writers to the Court)
9 Henley Avenue, Wepre Park, Connah Quay, Chester CH5 4HT)
appeared on behalf of the Appellant.
MR CRAIG SEPHTON QC (Instructed by Morgan Cole Solicitors, Bradley Court,
Park Place, Cardiff CF10 3DP)
appeared on behalf of the 4th Respondent.
MR CHARLES FEENY (Instructed by Berrymans Lace Mawer, Castle Chambers, 43 Castle Street, Liverpool, L2 9SU)
appeared on behalf of the 2nd, 3rd and 5th Respondents.
Crown Copyright ©
Monday, 14th May 2001
"(i)The First Plaintiff informed the Department of Social Security in or about January 1992 that the Hospital was fumigated regularly and that she contracted a disease from exposure to the chemicals used during fumigation. She also stated then that her disablement began on 6th July 1990.
(ii)The First Defendant's then solicitors, Messrs Leigh Day & Co., sent a letter before action to be sent to the Hospital on 10th November 1993.
(iii) The Second Plaintiff complained to her General Practitioner in or about October 1991 but her medical condition (which is not admitted) was caused by the spraying of pesticides at the Hospital.
(iv) The Second Defendant's then solicitors, Messrs Brian Thompson and Partners, sent a letter before action received by the First Defendant on 12th November 1993."
"20.I can't remember the exact date or even year, but I seem to recall it would be 1991 or 1992, Doctor Statham was seeing both myself and Barbara Lawson the Second Named Claimant and he did inform both of us that he suspected chemicals as being the cause of our ill health.
21.Doctor Statham was the first medical person to suspect there was any connection between the chemicals and our work place and this in turn led me to start requesting the list of chemicals that I was exposed to at my place of work. This was on the advice of Doctor Statham.
22.I asked my employers, the First Defendants, for a list of chemicals used and stored at my work place.
23.I have made numerous requests to my then employers, the First Defendants to let me have a list of chemicals, but despite many many requests, I have only ever been provided with a limited list of chemicals, when I kept repeating that what I required was the list over the whole 16 years I had worked there and to this date, I have never been supplied with that list."
"I did continue to suspect my illness was caused by chemicals, but experts continued to rule this out."
"This was the first time I was given a positive connection between my illness and chemical poisoning. Until that time, I only suspected there was a connection which all the experts denied."
"I accordingly request This Honourable Court to find that my date of knowledge was August 1994 or later and that my cause of action arose within three years of commencement of these proceedings."
"During my illness, I have seen Consultants and Doctors regarding my illness, but as most of their tests and examinations came back negative and as I am not an expert, or a qualified person, I had to accept their opinions, although I was aware that something was wrong with me. In fact, to some of the Doctors and Consultants, I didn't even mention the possible connection of pesticides, as I got the distinct impression that they didn't believe me."
"(c) Thereafter, there be no further service of affidavits by either party prior to the limitation hearing."
"... the hearing to be conducted by counsel based on the affidavit evidence, and no permission to call oral evidence on the limitation issue."
"(2)Alexander Harris informed us that there was important documentation missing from their file which they needed to issue the writ.
(3)Alexander Harris informed us that vital information, including the chemical tests and medical information was missing from the file and they had been unable to obtain it from the Defendants.
(4)Alexander Harris asked both myself and the Second Claimant to go through their files and for us to list what was missing, in particular medical reports, test results (blood, urine) symptoms etc.
(5)Alexander Harris said they had insufficient evidence to issue the writ until 1997 when they obtained Dr Monro's report."
"(1) Applying the third principle in Spargo v. North Essex District Heath Authority ..., it was necessary to distinguish between a claimant who has a firm belief that he has a significant injury, attributable to his working conditions, especially one which takes him to a solicitor for advice about a claim, a belief which he retains whatever contrary advice he receives, and a claimant who believes that he may have, or even probably has, a significant injury which is attributable to his working conditions, but is not sure and feels it necessary to have expert advice on those questions. The former has knowledge of significant injury and attribution for the purposes of section 14; the latter does not."
"One can have knowledge within Section 14 of the Limitation Act, but not yet be in a position to initiate proceedings because the necessary evidence is not available."
"The significance of that letter, although it falls within the three year period, is that it pre-dates the date upon which in this trial of the preliminary issue it is asserted on the claimants' behalf that they had relevant knowledge, which was not until August 1994. It is difficult, in my judgment, to read that letter as indicating other than knowledge as defined in the Limitation Act 1990."
"... the fact that these claimants felt sufficiently strongly to engage in sit ins in March 1994 before it is said they had relevant knowledge is, in my judgment, of some significance."
"Standing back and looking at these facts, notwithstanding the protestations in the affidavits of the claimants that they merely suspected until they received the confirmation from Dr. Monro in August of 1994, I am bound to say that I am driven inexorably to the conclusion that their state of mind was more than one of mere suspicion. It was, in my judgment, from looking at the documentation in question and, indeed, drawing inferences from the fact that they went on and on seeking medical evidence to support their case, notwithstanding receiving negative advice from bodies which they regarded as highly reputable, that indeed these two ladies had convinced themselves at the very early stage that their illnesses were attributable to their employment with the defendants. It may be that at first they related it principally to the single exposure to which they referred in the accident book, namely in July 1990, but certainly in my judgment they had reached a firm conclusion in their own minds, and the steps that they were then taking were steps not merely (in the words of Purchas L.J.) to obtain reassurance or confirmation, but to try to get evidence to pursue their case. In their own minds they had a sufficiently firm belief, in my judgment, from the time when they consulted solicitors, which must have been about the end of 1991 to constitute knowledge within the meaning of Section 14. Accordingly, I judge that these two ladies fell on the wrong side of the dividing line which is described in the authorities to which I have referred. They had a firm belief as early as the end of 1991, and the confirmation that they received in August 1994 was not sufficient to postpone their date of knowledge until then. Accordingly, in my judgment, on the Section 14 issue, these claims are statute barred."
"We are dealing here with events going back to the early 1980's and ending in about 1990, or at the very latest in the case of the second claimant, 1992. I am informed that various documents have been destroyed. Investigation will have to be made into the types of chemical used, the quantities of chemical used on each occasion and the location of the claimants when those chemicals were used. There will be issues not merely as between the claimants and the defendants, but important and significant issues as between the defendants themselves which will depend upon oral evidence and, indeed, upon expert evidence as to the effect of exposures at various different times. There was no notification given to the second, third, fourth and fifth defendants until the issue of these proceedings. At the most before then all that they knew was a request for lists of chemicals that they had used. There was no intimation of claim given to them. As far as the first defendants were concerned, although they had greater knowledge because of their closer connection with the claimants, they did not receive any detailed allegations from the claimants until September 1997. The hospital in question closed in March 1994. Its staff have inevitably dispersed over the period since. The court will have to consider not merely the questions of causation, but also of negligence in breach.
In my judgment, there can be absolutely no doubt whatsoever that the cogency of the evidence will be affected by the delay that has occurred."
"Regrettably, therefore, because I have very great sympathy for the claimants and the position in which they found themselves, and it may be that some of the problems facing them are not at their door but at the hands of those advising them in the past, regrettably I have come to the conclusion that this issue of limitation determined as a preliminary issue must be decided against them..."