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A judge has dealt a blow to the burgeoning field of legal actions over noise-induced hearing loss, in a move that insurers hope will crack down on spurious claims. In the first ruling of its kind, a judge threw out a factory worker's compensation claim after finding that he had been "fundamentally dishonest" over the supply and use of personal protective ear equipment at work.
Insurers said they hoped that the decision would send out a warning to claims companies that fraudulent cases could "cost them dear".
It was the first such decision under a new regime introduced by ministers last year that allows courts to penalise individuals whose claims are found to be "fundamentally dishonest" by ordering them to pay costs. According to insurers, claims over noise-induced hearing loss - also known as industrial deafness - have become the latest growth industry, taking over where whiplash allegations left off and rising by nearly 200 per cent between 2011 and 2014.
In a newly released judgment, Judge Gregory, sitting at Coventry Combined Court, ruled that the claim by Jonathon James against Diamanttek, a construction company in Coventry, was "fundamentally dishonest". The court found that James, who worked at the company from 2003 to 2014 as a diamond driller and plant operator, had been untruthful over whether he had worn protective ear equipment. Its finding of dishonesty means that the insurers can recover their costs, which otherwise they can no longer do.
If he had succeeded, the total cost of the claim would have been £85,000. Sarah Mallaby, head of technical claims at Allianz, which defended the claim, said that the decision was "great news" for the insurance industry. Allianz handles 5,200 noise-related claims a year.