Pensioner Receives Payout After Suffering Severe Skin Burns From Leather Sofa

Chemical Burn Injuries From Sofa

02.09.2009

A West Midlands pensioner has received a four figure compensation settlement after he suffered severe chemical burns and skin sores from a leather sofa which contained a highly toxic pesticide.

Several thousand angry consumers are currently embroiled in legal action over health problems linked to leather sofas imported from China, which were later discovered to contain the toxic fungicide,  di-methyl fumarate (DMF.)

Leading law firm, Irwin Mitchell solicitors, have now obtained the out of court settlement - believed to be one of the first successful payouts to a UK ‘toxic sofa’ victim – on behalf of 68 year old Maurice Heminsley from Willenhall.

Widower, Mr Heminsley, purchased the new £1,100 leather sofa from independent retailer, Furniture Warehouse, in Netherton, Dudley, in November 2007.

However, within days, he began to suffer from a rash which spread across his neck, back and legs. Over the course of the next three months the rash developed into weeping, open sores which refused to heal.  Mr Heminsley finally had to be hospitalised on 29 February 2008, where he was treated for acute contact dermatitis.

His sister, Joyce Barham, explained: “He was in a terrible state. He had been suffering for more than a week before he finally confided in us that he had a painful rash. “Because the rash was on the back of his shoulders and legs he was unable to see the full extent of his injuries, but when we saw the horrific open sores we were in shock. He had been in so much pain but, as is typical of him, he hadn’t complained as he didn’t want to make a fuss.”

Mr Heminsley has now received an undisclosed four figure payout for his injuries, together with a full refund of £1,100 in respect of the defective sofa, from Dudley based Furniture Warehouse, who did not contest liability.

Thousands of Chinese manufactured leather sofas were  sold throughout 2007 and early 2008 by a number of UK retailers, including Argos, Walmseys, Land of Leather and more than a dozen independent furniture retailers. The sofas had been packed with sachets of the anti-mould chemical, DMF, to stop the leather from going mouldy during storage in humid conditions.

Miss Toni Long, a solicitor with Irwin Mitchell, who represented Mr Heminsley, said:

“Consumers quite rightly expect certain standards to be met throughout every stage of the manufacture and packaging process. 

“As of 1st May 2009 the European Commission has banned products containing the biocide DMF from being placed or made available on the market.

“The responsibility for the recall of all known products, which have been sold that contained DMF, has been placed on local Trading Standards. It is hoped that the larger retailers involved in legal action over ‘toxic sofas’, will be able to move swiftly towards settlement of the large number of similar claims against them.”

Mr Heminsley commented: “The settlement means I can now put this really painful episode in the past and move on with my life. However, I’m annoyed that more wasn’t done to protect consumers. I think more should have been done to withdraw them from sale as soon as the manufacturers knew there was a problem.”