Personal Injury Law Scotland

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An employee of a whisky company who developed hearing loss while working on the bottling line wins a £45,000 damages case

Since 1990, Margaret Denny, 63, has been employed by the defence, Chivas Brothers Ltd., and its parent company. She claimed that the defender's negligence was to blame for her hearing loss, and she sought damages in addition to the price of hearing aids.

Sheriff Kenneth Campbell heard the case. Pilkington, an attorney, represented the pursuer, and J. Thomson, an attorney, represented the defender.

The pursuer was employed by the defender from 1990 to 2000 as a queue operator in its Newton bottling facility, and later she worked at another bottling hall at Kilmalid. In 1996, earplugs were made available to workers, but the pursuer and others noticed that they itched while being worn and occasionally came untied. Before a new kind of plug was released in 2015, there was no official training on how to use them.

Although the pursuer's audiograms from 1991 and 1996 did not reveal any hearing loss, they did reveal early signs of bilateral notching that were compatible with noise-induced hearing damage. After another six audiogram tests in 2015, the defender finally referred the pursuer for additional medical evaluation. The pursuer was found to have a 50 dB high-frequency hearing loss in her right ear and a 40 dB high-frequency hearing loss in her left ear, most of which was noise-induced.

Sheriff Campbell stated in an explanation of the defender's responsibility: "It seems to me that the key issue is whether the defender had ensured that risk from the exposure of their employees, and in particular the pursuer, to noise was either eliminated at source or, where this was not reasonably practicable, reduced to as low a level as reasonably practicable. I consider that the onus of demonstrating the level of noise has been reduced to the lowest level reasonably practicable is on the defender."

He added: "Given the findings I have made about the noise level in Newton hall, and about the absence of assessment of noise in either Newton hall or Leven hall until 2006, and also the absence of evidence engineering solutions other than the provision of ear-plugs, I am not satisfied the defender has demonstrated that on the evidence before me."

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