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Claims for nuclear test injuries are time-barred

The Times has today (27 March 2012) published a Judgment of the Supreme Court the result of which is that service veterans lost their bid to pursue compensation claims against the Ministry of Defence.

The case brought by way of lead cases in a group action, had been taken to the Supreme Court, the highest court in the UK, after the 10 ‘lead’ claimants won the first round at the High Court in 2009, but the Court of Appeal blocked 9 out of the 10 claims following the MOD’s appeal in 2010.

The veterans blamed ill health on their involvement in British nuclear tests in Australia, on Christmas Island and in the Pacific Ocean between 1952 and 1958.

Graeme Swain says, “By a majority decision the Court restrictively interpreted the meaning of the word ‘knowledge’.  It’s hard to accept the decision that the claimants had ‘knowledge’ when the link between the veterans’ injuries and radiation is controversial and arguably unproven.”

The Supreme Court ruled that the claims brought by the veterans were time-barred, refusing them permission to proceed under the statutory discretion to allow cases to go ahead if brought more than 3 years after the date of injury.

According to Graeme Swain, “The Court focused on the moment when it was reasonable to start investigating a claim.  Lord Wilson concluded that the claimants had for many years reasonably believed that the injury could be down to the nuclear tests and referred to the campaigns over the years for compensation.”

Lord Wilson also stated there was great difficulty proving a causal link between illnesses suffered and the tests they were part of.

Although the MOD recognises the ‘debt of gratitude’ to the ex-servicemen, this means that the servicemen have taken the battle as far as they can in the UK.

Swain & Co are experts in Personal Injury claims and Medical Negligence claims and can advise on all aspects of time limits for bringing compensation claims.

Contact our specialist teams today on 02392 483322 (Portsmouth/Havant) or 02380 631111 (Southampton).

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