We have had a few cases where Judges have given the benefit of the doubt on ambiguous descriptions of symptoms to the claimant.
In this claim, the claimant was a road worker who used vibrating tools such as jackhammers, vibrating rollers and wacker plates. He had done the work for over 32 years. Liability was admitted but causation disputed.
The claimant’s expert, Dr Moran from HAVS Screening Limited, found in his first report that the blanching of the hands described by the claimant was “more suggestive of a constitutional cause” rather than HAVS. He used an “Allen’s test” to test discolouration and found no abnormal signs in the hands and concluded that the symptoms were suggestive of primary Raynaud’s Syndrome.
He did, however, find that carpal tunnel syndrome had been caused by exposure to vibrating tools.
When he re-examined the claimant a year later, the description of discolouration had changed. The claimant had previously described a blotchy appearance on the hands but this changed to a description where they lost colour, spreading from the tips and going around the full circumference of the finger.
This description was clearly in line with a diagnosis of HAVS. The defendant’s expert agreed that, if this changed description were correct, then a diagnosis of HAVS must follow. Both experts suggested the claimant submit photographs of the symptoms. The claimant was unable to do this but submitted evidence from his wife corroborating his description of his symptoms.
A question for the Judge was why the description of symptoms had changed. The Judge found the claimant was not particularly articulate but was honest.
He did not find the change of descriptions was attributable to the claimant gaining knowledge of the signs of vascular damage to the hands, which could come through reading or prompting from a third party. He found the evidence from the claimant and his wife credible and found that HAVS had been caused by the work.
The experts agreed that, if there were no diagnosis of HAVS or VWF, then carpal tunnel syndrome could not be associated with the vibrating work.
Given the above finding, the Judge was able to find that the carpal tunnel syndrome was also linked to the vibrating tools. He found the claimant had HAVS stage 2 vascular and stage 3 sensori-neural bilateral carpal tunnel syndrome and awarded him £11,000 general damages.
Nottingham CC, 21 November 2006.