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Michael Kent KC acted for the successful Respondent in Greenway & Others v Johnson Matthey Plc

Michael Kent KC instructed by Weightmans acted for the successful respondent in this appeal in which five appellants sought to identify a novel cause of action in contract and in tort in circumstances where they had become sensitised to a chemical at work (metal refining involving platinum salts). They had been removed from the possibility of further contact thereby avoiding the risk of going on to suffer an allergic reaction. They claimed substantial past and prospective losses of earnings based on their removal from better paid work and, in some cases, dismissal where they could not be redeployed but Mr Justice Jay held and the Court of Appeal agreed that no actionable personal injury had been suffered and the claims for substantial damages could not be pursued in contract. In the Court of Appeal the appellants additionally argued for a freestanding duty of care in tort not to cause pure economic losses but that argument also failed.

The Court of Appeal was much influenced by an analysis of the arrangements between the respondents and the appellants whose contracts of employment incorporated a collective agreement making provision for an enhanced redundancy payment in the event of sensitisation to platinum salts.

The Court of Appeal reiterated the “long-established distinction in the law of tort between the imposition of a duty of care to protect a person from physical injury or physical damage to property and the imposition of a duty of care to protect a person against pure economic loss” and distinguished those cases where the latter duty of care was upheld.

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