The three claimants had worked in factories making catalytic converters. Platinum salts were used in the production process. The employer was in breach of both common law and statute by failing to ensure that the factories were properly cleaned. As a result; the claimants were exposed to platinum salts, and in turn they developed platinum salt sensitisation.
They were no longer permitted to work in areas where they might be further exposed and might develop allergic symptoms.
As a result; two of the claimants had their employment terminated and the third had secured a different role at a greatly reduced rate of pay.
They lost at first instance . They had sustained no actionable personal injury and n truth their claim was for pure economic loss, for which they could not recover in tort.
The Court of Appeal agreed.
Negligence and breach of duty are not actionable alone- it was common ground that there must be some damage to constitute actionable injury. The two key cases were House of Lords cases of Cartledge v E Jopling & Sons Ltd (when is lung disease actionable) and Rothwell v Chemical & Insulating Co Ltd. (pleural plaques are not an injury at comon law) There was agreement that if a platinum salt allergy had developed as opposed simply to a sensitisation then there would be an actionable personal injury.
The Supreme Court judgment held that the pursuers’ bodily capacity for work had been impaired and they were significantly worse off. They had suffered actionable bodily damage, which, given its impact on their lives was more that negligible.
It was important to focus on the actual physiological change and the significant employment impact .