Divers win right to sue for compensation

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Three British divers, including a man from Huddersfield, who were exposed to toxic chemicals while on a contract in Saudi Arabia have won the first round of their compensation battle.
Andrew Iles, of Huddersfield, Stephen Harley, of Devon and Michael Hopley of Crewe, say that in May 2003, they were required to work in an oil field in the Dammam region into which the chemicals had been discharged from a vessel owned by Saudi Aramco, the state-owned national oil company.
They were all admitted to hospital for a day or two with rashes and nausea and had to be readmitted for a further ten days after they experienced difficulties in breathing and became lethargic.

They say that they have suffered long-term consequences, both physical and – in some cases, psychological – while none have been able to return to diving as an occupation.

Each continued to be paid by their Saudi employer, Khalifa A Algosaibi Diving And Marine Services (often known as ADAMS), until June 2006 while undergoing periodic medical examinations.

The men have brought a negligence action in the UK against ADAMS and its diving supervisor Ian Smith, but they accept that the issue of liability is to be determined by Saudi law.

Last month, the defendants argued before Mr Justice Foskett at London’s High Court that the claims were, as a matter of Saudi law, brought too late.

The judge had to decide this issue and whether he should not apply the Saudi limitation period because to do so would cause “undue hardship” to the claimants. He ruled that the claims should proceed because, while a 12-month limitation period did apply, the period ran from the end of the “work relations” between employer and employee which, in this case, did not occur until June 2006.

He said that he would also have held that the “undue hardship” threshold was crossed in the case, as each of the three was impeded in obtaining local advice and representation in Saudi.

He added that he was quite satisfied that ADAMS found the continued presence of the men, who wanted to seek compensation from them or from Aramco, to be an “embarrassment”.

Copyright (c) Press Association Ltd. 2009, All Rights Reserved.

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