HAVS and the HAVS-nots: a pro-claimant finding on causation

These judgements sent from our Cardiff office state  the narrow interpretation by the defendant expert Roger Cooke of what is an injury under the Stockholm Scale , used by him to reject claims of injury, is to be rejected in favour of a broader assessment of what a HAVS/VWF injury is  for the purpose of  assessing causation.

Previously, although the Cardiff office had good results on liability in these cases, the evidence of Dr Cooke (a medical expert relied on almost exclusively by defendants in South Wales) was preferred by trial judges to defeat arguments on causation.

In these recent judgments the approach of Dr Cooke has been rejected by HHJ Graham Jones. The medical experts used for the claimant in these cases were Ian Lane and Tudor Davies.

The defendants in the cases were Corus and Howden Sirocco Ltd.

In his draft judgment in the case of PAW/Jones, Judge Jones states:

"The diagnostic criteria in the Stockholm Workshop Scale should not be applied in a strict, rigid and prescriptive manner. For the purposes of determining whether exposure to vibration has caused or materially contributed to the condition complained of, the following factors should each be assessed and an overall conclusion then reached on the balance of probability having regard to the assessments made.

1. Level and length of exposure 
2. Genuineness and reliability of the claimant's account. 
3. Whether the symptoms described are compatible and not inconsistent with the symptoms of HAVS as described in the literature generally, bearing in mind that the syndrome is not fully understood by the medical profession at present and that there are differences of view and emphasis among doctors and in the literature in relation to other symptoms. 
4. Whether there is any other cause."

A third case failed, not on medical issues, but because Judge Jones did not consider the claimant to be a credible witness.

In respect of all three cases, the defendants' solicitors were Cartwrights Adams and Black.

On several occasions during these trials, the Judge expressed the view that these cases really should not be going to trial, for reasons of proportionality, and that they appeared to be reaching trial largely because of the stances taken by the parties respective medical experts. He felt that these cases should be settling and should be fast track cases in view of the relatively modest sums involved.

The judgments are also of significance in that Judge Jones has given guidance for the management of VWF cases locally.

The judgments are draft judgments at this stage to be finalised in a few weeks.

The defendants are seeking leave to appeal.

Morgan -v- Corus Plc, Cardiff CC, 26 August 2005