0370 270 6000

already registered?

Please sign in with your existing account details.

need to register?

Register to access exclusive content, sign up to receive our updates and personalise your experience on brownejacobson.com.

Privacy statement - Terms and conditions

Transco Plc v Griggs, Court of Appeal

23 April 2003
The issues

VWF – material contribution

The facts

The Claimant was employed by the Defendant as a Distribution Fitter from 1974 to 1998. Over that time he routinely used various vibrating tools including tools including road breakers, wackers and other drills. In May 1998 he was diagnosed with Hand-Arm Vibration Syndrome (HAVS). In February 1999 a Rheumatologist decided the most likely diagnosis was Vibration White Finger (VWF) which is part of HAVS. The Claimant brought an action for personal injuries against his employer. Breach of duty was admitted. There was a dispute over causation. The Defendant’s expert was not satisfied that the Claimant’s symptoms were typical of the effects of vibration. The Claimant’s expert carried out further tests, which showed that the Claimant was not suffering from VWF. The Claimant’s expert now thought that the condition the Claimant was suffering from was Palmar Arch Disease (PAD) and that in the absence of any signs of vascular disease elsewhere the most likely cause was the use of vibrating machinery. The Defendant’s expert believed that generalised or diffuse PAD would account for his symptoms and did not accept that vibration had been shown to cause PAD.

At Trial the Defendant’s expert adopted the diagnosis of PAD and the Judge found as a fact that he was suffering from PAD. The Judge found that the Defendant’s expert did not come up with any more plausible explanation of the Claimant’s condition and that “by diagnosis by exclusion” the condition was vibration induced. Following Fairchild v Glenhaven and McGhee v National Coal Board he found that the Defendant had materially increased the risk. The Defendant appealed.

The decision

1. When faced with competing expert evidence, it was an important part of the Judge’s task to assess whose opinion was the more reliable.

2. Another factor was the respective qualifications and experience of the experts.

3. The most important factor however was the quality of evidence and reasoning upon which their opinions are based. The Judge’s approach in respect of the “diagnosis by exclusion” was reasonable. If a Claimant establishes that all other possible causes of damage must be excluded then it becomes more probable than not that the possible cause which has not been excluded is the true cause.

4. The Defendant had argued that the Claimant could not prove that his PAD was caused by guilty negligent levels of exposure rather than innocent non-negligent and acceptable levels. The Defendant argued that this was not the same situation as had been dealt with in Fairchild. It was inappropriate in this case to relax the strict “but for” requirement of causation, they argued.

5. Bearing in mind the length and magnitude of the Claimant’s exposure to vibration and the extensive breaches of duty admitted by the Defendant it was possible to conclude that the “but for” test was satisfied. It had been eventually agreed between the experts that all causes of the Claimant’s condition apart from his exposure to vibratory tools had been effectively excluded.

6. Even if the “but for” test could not be satisfied there was no doubt that the employers failure to have a proper system for protecting and preventing vibration induced diseases materially increased the risk of an employee sustaining such a disease. Appeal dismissed.

focus on...

Legal updates

Assessing the scope of employers liability – Chell v Tarmac

These were the opening remarks of Mr Justice Martin Spencer when handing down his Judgment in the recent case of Andrew Chell v Tarmac Cement and Lime Limited [2020] EWHC 2613, the latest in a series of appeals dealing with the scope of vicarious liability.

View

Legal updates

Non-payment of insurance premiums during the Coronavirus pandemic

The forced closure of many businesses as a result of the Coronavirus pandemic has had a huge impact on the nation’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP). Recent reports from the Office for National Statistics state that the economy was 25% smaller in April than it was in February this year.

View

Legal updates

Reinstatement for property damage losses – when does it apply?

The Court of Appeal has recently considered the correct test for measuring the indemnity for property damage losses and has provided useful guidance on whether an insured needs to intend to reinstate the property to its pre-loss condition.

View

Legal updates

Coronavirus (COVID-19) insurance considerations

With instances of COVID-19 rapidly increasing throughout the UK, many businesses are considering the options available to limit staff and customer exposure to Coronavirus.

View

The content on this page is provided for the purposes of general interest and information. It contains only brief summaries of aspects of the subject matter and does not provide comprehensive statements of the law. It does not constitute legal advice and does not provide a substitute for it.

mailing list sign up



Select which mailings you would like to receive from us.

Sign up