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Grasp of medical evidence successfully defeats claim for carpal tunnel syndrome

  • Market Insight 27 July 2020 27 July 2020
  • UK & Europe

  • Insurance & Reinsurance

Clyde & Co has successfully secured the discontinuance of a claim in which the Claimant alleged he had sustained carpal tunnel syndrome ("CTS") through his employment; resulting in savings of over £150,000 on damages and costs.

Grasp of medical evidence successfully defeats claim for carpal tunnel syndrome

The allegations and evidence that the Claimant advanced became untenable once we submitted expert medical evidence indicating that the Claimant's condition was in fact constitutional in nature and not as a result of his employment.

Background

The Claimant alleged he had developed CTS as a result of using vibratory equipment when employed by our client, between 22 August 2016 and 18 October 2017. His claim for damages amounted to approximately £60,000.

He also brought a claim against his former employer and interestingly it appeared that the onset of symptoms manifested during this period of employment.

This was the first claim against our client for alleged vibration-induced CTS. We were provided with a number of risk assessments and documents relating to the termination of the Claimant's employment. Early on in the claim we obtained witness statements from our client in relation to the working practices and the use of tools and equipment, as well as job rotation and breaks.

Expert evidence

Our expert, Professor Bainbridge, was of the firm view that on the balance of probabilities, the Claimant's condition was constitutional and not related to his employment with our client or his former employer. Professor Bainbridge opined the Claimant had bilateral CTS, bilateral cubital tunnel syndrome and cervical spine arthritis.

The cervical spine arthritis was not reported by the Claimant's own expert. Professor Bainbridge considered the Claimant initially had developed cervical spondylosis with symptoms radiating to his arms, followed by the development of CTS, probably in relation to 'double crush syndrome', genetic predisposition and obesity. The cubital tunnel syndrome then developed which gave the Claimant more widespread problems in his hands.

Outcome

We informed the Claimant that causation and diagnosis were strongly disputed. With Professor Bainbridge's evidence we argued that the overwhelming number of risk factors for the development of constitutional CTS in the Claimant vastly outweighed any weak statistical association (with no theoretical causative theory) with regard to vibration exposure.

We served our client's medical evidence along with an invitation for the Claimant to discontinue his claim, wherein we outlined weaknesses in the Claimant's case and the strength of our medical evidence, as well as informing the Claimant that were he to continue to pursue his claim we would seek costs.

We maintained a firm position and the Claimant was persuaded to discontinue his claim before the exchange of witness evidence and also prior to incurring costs of obtaining an occupational hygienist report. This resulted in the trial, which was listed for September 2020, being vacated and significant savings on costs and damages in the region of £150,000.

What we can learn?

  • The link between vibration exposure and CTS remains a very controversial area with many medical experts dismissing any causative link. Allegations such as those advanced by the Claimant should be challenged wherever possible, particularly where there is detailed evidence supporting the working practices, and defendants should therefore always invest in expert orthopaedic medical opinion to fully explore causation.
     
  • Strategically, fully investigating the claim, obtaining disclosure and lay witness evidence from our client as well as supporting medical evidence put us in a strong position to argue against breach of duty / negligence and causation. The compelling evidence from Professor Bainbridge very clearly made causation a key argument.

This article was authored by Judith Martin, Partner, and Chloe Adamson, Associate.

 

End

Additional authors:

Chloe Adamson

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