Case Study: Legionnaire's Disease Claim

Mr B Was Awarded £35,000

JMW has secured £35,000 compensation for a client after he contracted legionnaires disease whilst working.

The case:

Mr B was working as a self-employed mechanical fitter.  During some contract work for a maintenance and repair company, on site at a large steelworks, Mr B contracted Legionnaire’s Disease; the only one of 4,500 employees at the facility to do so.  He decided to make a claim and contacted JMW Solicitors, where he dealt with Andrew Lilley, Head of Industrial Disease.  

The claim:

We took a witness statement from Mr B, outlining his working environment and ways he could have been exposed to conditions that caused him to contract legionnaire’s disease.  It also outlined the effect the disease had on his life. 

We obtained Mr B’s medical records and approached the HSE and Health Protection Unit for information on both possible defendants.  We also contacted a colleague of Mr B’s and asked him to give a supporting statement regarding Mr B’s working conditions, which corroborated Mr B’s statement that highlighted a lax attitude to health and safety, and mentioned the presence of stagnant pools of water on site. 

The Health Protection Unit traced legionella bacteria to one of the steelworks’ cooling towers.  Mr B was examined by an independent Consultant Chest Physician, who confirmed that he had contracted legionella pneumophila as a result of exposure to water vapour/spray being emitted from a contaminated cooling tower. 

Approaching the defendant:

This gave us enough evidence to formally approach both potential defendants– the steelworks and the maintenance and repair company – and we proceeded to write letters of claim to both organisations. 

We instructed an independent Consultant Psychiatrist to comment on Mr B’s emotional state; he had been working up to 80 hours a week before contracting legionnaire’s disease, and had difficulty accepting the reduced level of work he was physically able to cope with thanks to the disease.   

Despite repeated requests for a decision on liability, neither defendant responded until we threatened to issue Court proceedings.  The defendants then raised questions about the bacteria’s incubation period, suggesting Mr B’s chances of being exposed at the site were low.  We sought advice from an engineering expert and were able to give engineering evidence suggesting otherwise. 

We decided to discontinue the claim against the maintenance and repair firm, pursuing the steelworks as a sole defendant.  

Court Proceedings:

We issued Court proceedings and gathered more evidence to support the claim, and prepared to engage a Microbiologist.  We awaited evidence from the defendant’s solicitor regarding tests their engineer had carried out to see if legionella had been found in their water systems.  This evidence indicated that legionella bacteria was present in various cooling towers across the site, however it needed to be made clear as to where these towers were in proximity to Mr B’s location during his exposure.  We demanded disclosure of all relevant documentation relating to testing and procedures, which ran to many thousands of pages.

This robust approach to disclosure, requiring very substantial documents from the defendant, prompted them to reach a negotiated settlement.  This ultimately resulted in agreeing an out of Court settlement of substantial compensation for our client, even though he was the only worker from amongst more than 4,000 on site who contracted the disease.  Mr B was happy to accept this settlement and resolve what had been a lengthy claim against a difficult defendant.  


If you or a loved one has contracted legionnaire's disease while working you may be able to make a claim for compensation. Call JMW Solicitors on 0800 054 6570 or fill out a contact form and we'll call you back to discuss whether you have a case to make a claim.

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