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Dryden and Others v Johnson Matthey PLC [2018] UKSC 18 - Andrew Horner, Pupil Barrister, Trinity Chambers

01/05/18. The Supreme Court recently handed down judgment in Dryden and Others v Johnson Matthew plc. The judgment addressed the correct interpretation of “damage” in the context of occupational platinum salt sensitisation (PSS), an asymptomatic condition contracted in response to exposure to platinum salt. Whilst itself asymptomatic, PSS is a precursor to platinum salt allergy which can produce physical symptoms comparable to those provoked by hay fever (i.e. running nose and eyes, skin irritation and respiratory tract problems). Workers affected by PSS are immediately required to cease exposure to platinum salt to avoid developing an allergy. The Supreme Court was required to determine whether the acquisition of PSS amounted to actionable damage.

1. Factual background

The Appellants were employed by the Respondent company to work in the production of catalytic converters. In the course of their employment, the Appellants were exposed to chlorinated platinum salts and were discovered during routine testing to have developed PSS. Once PSS was identified in the Appellants they were prevented by the Respondent from continuing to work around platinum salts. For the Appellants, this resulted in a loss of income either through termination of employment or reassignment to a poorer paid position within the Respondent company.

At first instance, medical experts were asked to distinguish PSS from the development of pleural plaques following exposure to asbestos. The experts offered the following distinctions...

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