Paul and Audrey Edwards say that the police, prison chiefs and doctors all failed in their duty to protect the life of their son, Christopher, who was killed four years ago.
If the Edwardses win the case, the Government will come under pressure to change the law to protect vulnerable remand prisoners
Christopher Edwards, a management trainee with a degree in Japanese and economics, had been charged under the Public Order Act and was on remand when he was placed in a cell with Richard Linford. Both men had a history of psychiatric problems.
A three-year, pounds 1m, inquiry into the case blamed multiple failures by the authorities for the death of Mr Edwards in November 1994.
His skull was so severely crushed that he could only be identified from dental records after the attack at Chelmsford prison in Essex.
The report, commissioned by the Prison Service, Essex County Council and North Essex Health Authority, revealed that a month before the tragedy a doctor had concluded that Linford was capable of murdering someone.
The inquiry chairman said that neither of the men should have been in prison, let alone sharing a cell, and that the death of Mr Edwards was a "needless and tragic loss of life" brought about by "astonishing" failures by health and social services.
Linford, a paranoid schizophrenic, is now in Rampton special hospital after pleading guilty to the manslaughter of Mr Edwards.
Mr and Mrs Edwards, who are already seeking compensation for Christopher's death, say their application to the European Court is their only hope of obtaining justice for their son and forcing the Government to implement changes.
"We have had the tragedy of losing our son but we feel some good should come from it," Mr Edwards said. "Our son was denied life by gross failures of the public mental health and criminal justice agencies who had responsibility for his care at the time of his death.
"The man who killed our son was also failed by the system."Reuse content