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Nixon v FJ Morris Contracting Ltd, Queen's Bench Division, 21 December 2000

8 February 2001
The issues

Multiple Sclerosis – Causation

The facts

The Defendants employees in May 1992 allowed a lamp standard to fall onto the Claimant’s car as he was driving along a dual carriageway in Milton Keynes. In 1994 he was referred to a Neurologist who diagnosed MS. The case came before the Court to determine the nature and extent of the injuries sustained and whether it was possible for those types of injuries to trigger symptoms of MS.

The decision

In Dingly v Chief Constable of Strathclyde Police the First Division of the Inner House of the Court of Session found that academic studies failed to throw up any positive connection between MS and trauma.

Garland LJ had been provided with further and more up to date information and felt uninhibited from reaching different conclusions from those reached in Dingly. Three questions arose: –

a) Was it the case that trauma could provoke MS at all? In the course of the trial it was apparent that both experts accepted that the answer was yes, qualified by the words ” in a rare or exceptional case”.

b) If so, what type of trauma. Both experts were agreed that the answer to b was that it must be to the brain or spinal cord and typically the most vulnerable cervical spinal cord.

c) How severe must that trauma be? The answer from the expert evidence was that it had to be sufficiently severe to cause an alteration to the blood brain barrier (thus begging the question).

In this case Garland J found that it was not possible for injuries of the type sustained by the Claimant to trigger MS as there was no injury to the cervical spinal cord.

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