Claim Against the Ministry of Defence
An engineer who lost his shoulder in a roadside bomb blast in Basra will begin a landmark court action against the Ministry of Defence next week amid accusations that he was given a civilian vehicle while visiting dignitaries were given armoured cars.
Graham Hopps, 45, was a contractor on a power station construction project in Iraq when the Land Rover Discovery he was travelling in was struck by a roadside bomb on a route which was ‘unapproved’.
The consultant electrical engineer from Leeds lost his right shoulder and suffered 136 fractures in his right arm from the blast, while an Iraqi engineer who was sitting next to him later died from his injuries.
The father-of-two, represented by experts from national firm Irwin Mitchell, is now taking unprecedented legal action against the MoD and the international engineering consultancy he worked for, Mott MacDonald, over the injuries he sustained.
Mr Hopps claims he had to travel in the Land Rover Discovery because it was allocated to him by his employers, who sourced it from the British Army in Basra. Yet the MoD did have armoured vehicles available.
He is accusing the MoD of 'taking unnecessary risks' by leaving him inadequately protected while giving visiting dignitaries and civil servants armoured vehicles and military escorts through dangerous zones of the city.
Mr Hopps also says that he was travelling on an 'unapproved' route when the bomb went off. Routes were supposed to be checked by the military in advance of a journey. But Mr Hopps says that the route chosen that day – to drop off an Iraqi engineer close to his home – had not been verified as safe.
The landmark case, if lost by the MoD, could have wider implications for other civilian and military personnel, who have been injured, some fatally, while travelling in unarmoured cars.
Irwin Mitchell solicitor Matt Brown said: “Not only was the MoD short-changing personnel in dangerous areas of a war-torn country, it seemed to be picking and choosing who received the best protection.
"The MoD was ultimately responsible for the security arrangements of civilian personnel working for Mott MacDonald. Mr Hopps was provided with a Land Rover Discovery on an unsafe route.
"Both Mott MacDonald and the MoD knew that the security situation was deteriorating in the summer before the incident and there was a considerable level of danger from roadside bombs.
"Mott MacDonald owed a duty of care to Mr Hopps, as his employers, but they have blamed the M0D throughout for not doing enough to protect him. In fact, other civilian employers were moving their staff about in armoured vehicles with private bodyguards. So why did they not give Mr Hopps the same treatment? The resulting serious, permanent injuries were completely avoidable and have changed his life," said Mr Brown.
Mr Hopps said: "There were reports of roadside bombs going off in the area at the time and, in some kind of fatal lottery, my employers and the MoD took unnecessary risks by deciding that others, not me, would get the protection. Immediately after I was injured Mott MacDonald sought armoured vehicles for their personnel from the private sector."
Six years on Mr Hopps is still affected by his injuries and, although he now works as a self-employed site manager here in the UK, says he will never be able to return to the job he loves. He said: "My arm could not be rebuilt – there was too much missing. I used to love my job and now I am stuck in an office."
Following the explosion Mr Hopps spent eight weeks in three separate hospitals first in Basra, then Birmingham and finally at St James in Leeds where he was told by Mott MacDonald that his six-month contract would not be honoured and that his injuries were not covered by employers liability insurance.
"I argued with them from my hospital bed and got the contract honoured in the end," said Mr Hopps. "But the insurance policy did not cover me for my injuries, even though they said it would cover every eventuality.
"After all I’d been through, this was a particularly low point for me." The trial starts on June 29th at the Royal Courts of Justice in London at 10.30am and is expected to last five to six days. For further information contact John Brenan on the number below. Matthew Brown from Irwin Mitchell and Mr Hopps will be in attendance and available for interview.