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Success for Alexander Macpherson in £2m infectious disease claim

On 14 November 2023 HHJ Mark Raeside KC dismissed an unusual infectious disease claim brought against a storage company in relation to an infestation of rodents after a week-long trial (Spencer v Safestore, Central London County Court).

In 2018 the Claimant (Dr Spencer) entered into a licence for two storage units at Safestore’s premises in Ruislip.  Some months thereafter the units became infested with rodents, causing extensive damage to Dr Spencer’s property.  An insurance claim for this damage was settled.  However, some months after the damage was discovered Dr Spencer fell ill with a serious cardiac condition (dilated cardiomyopathy) which seriously compromised his life expectancy.  He brought a claim for personal injury against Safestore, alleging that his heart condition had been triggered by an infection which he had contracted from the rodent infestation.  He claimed in the region of £2m in loss of earnings, care and other expenses.

After hearing extensive oral evidence from infectious disease experts and cardiologists instructed by the parties, HHJ Mark Raeside concluded that the infection which Dr Spencer contracted was unlikely to have been the result of the rodent infestation and was more likely to have been a common respiratory virus such as influenza.  The judge also concluded that, whatever the source of the infection, this had not caused the serious cardiac condition which ensued thereafter.  The dilated cardiomyopathy had a genetic cause and would have developed at the same time in any event.

A separate claim for return of the storage charges under the doctrine of total failure of consideration was also dismissed.

Newspaper coverage of the trial can be found here: Top lawyer is suing a storage company for £500,000 after claiming he developed a life threatening ‘rat-borne’ disease from rodents who infested his furniture while locked away during a house move | Daily Mail Online

Alexander Macpherson represented the successful Defendant and its insurers Allianz.  He was instructed by Michelle Penn and Lisa Ellis of Clyde & Co.

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