Dying ex-serviceman denied right to sue MoD

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The Independent Online
An ex-serviceman suffering incurable lung cancer contracted after being exposed to asbestos dust as a Royal Navy engineer cannot claim compensation, three Court of Appeal judges ruled yesterday.

Lawyers acting for Ronald Quinn had argued that civilian employees of the Ministry of Defence are able to sue for damages and it was unjust that military personnel cannot. But Lord Justice Swinton Thomas said he "could see no reason" to change regulations barring servicemen from claiming against the Ministry of Defence for personal injury.

Mr Quinn, 65, of Holbeck, Leeds, who served from 1949 to 1956, is the first ex-serviceman to challenge whether the immunity clause of the Crown Proceedings Act applies to serving members of the forces who were exposed to asbestos dust. During his time with the Navy, he carried out service work on ships' boilers, stripping or removing lagging which contained asbestos. He was forced to retire from work in 1979 and in 1982 was diagnosed as having malignant mesothelioma. He is now seriously ill.

The Crown Proceedings Act, covering damages actions against the Crown, excludes members of the armed forces from claiming if it resulted from the condition of the "land, premises, ship, aircraft or vehicles" supplied by the MoD. The appeal judges ruled that Mr Quinn suffered his injury "in consequence of the nature or condition of the ship" and therefore his action fails. They also threw out an alternative argument that there was an employment contract between Mr Quinn and the MoD, which had acted negligently.

Lawyers for Mr Quinn are to petition the House of Lords in an attempt to challenge the judgment.

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