Lab Assistant Exposed to Harmful Chemicals Receives £90,000 Compensation

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Our client developed occupational asthma as a result of her employment with the NHS. Thompsons' personal injury solicitors helped her receive £90,000 in work injury compensation.

The background

At the time she commenced her lung disease claim with Thompsons, our client had worked for NHS Lanarkshire for more than five years. During her time as a Medical Laboratory Assistant, her work involved opening tissue samples from patients and preparing them for the Biomedical Science department to process.

The samples were received from three hospitals in Lanarkshire and were not always packaged correctly. This meant the contents leaked during transit or were difficult to handle without danger of spillage, and our client would therefore be exposed to harmful substances, including formalin: a preserving fluid containing formaldehyde.

On a number of occasions, our client was exposed to significant amounts of formalin as a result of incorrect packaging and handling processes that put her and her colleagues at risk.

Our client had planned to become a biomedical assistant and had completed NC and NQ qualifications at college, however, continuing with lab work became impossible as a result of her occupational health damage.

The consequences

Our client first noticed lung disease symptoms in late 2016. She was initially treated by her GP surgery for a chest infection and then underlying asthma.

In June 2017 our client attended an Occupational Health appointment where she informed the clinician about her asthma diagnosis and her exposure to formalin was discussed. She continued to work in the same department and her symptoms were monitored.

From September 2017 our client worked in other departments handling different samples, filing them and filing the packaging. Her symptoms continued and she returned to her GP. Her doctors prescribed inhalers for the management of her asthma.

Our client finds she is more prone to chest infections since the exposure to harmful substances and her occupational health condition has now been reported to RIDDOR.

The settlement

Our client was referred to us a time-critical point as her claim was close to being time-barred. Our personal injury solicitors raised protective proceedings in the All Sheriff Personal Injury Court in Edinburgh and the case was listed so that further investigations could be carried out.

Thompsons instructed various expert witness reports including medical, employment, pension psychiatric, and occupational liability reports. The claim was particularly complex and the defender's witness reports conflicted with much of Thompsons' evidence.

However, in a pre-trial meeting the defender put forward a settlement of £50,000. While this sum reflected the harm our client's injuries had caused for her employment chances and potential lost pension earnings, we did not feel it was sufficient. A further offer of £58,000 was offered, but Thompsons personal injury solicitors and Senior Counsel still felt it was inadequate.

We obtained supportive supplementary evidence from two of our expert witnesses and at a further pre-trial meeting an increased offer of £90,000 was put forward. We felt this was reasonably within the range of what the court would be likely to award and our client was happy to accept.

Settlement was agreed on 23 November 2021.

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