Lawyers Representing Victims of Edinburgh Outbreak Commission Expert After Authorities Fail To Share Information
Specialist injury lawyers representing 37 people affected by the legionnaires outbreak in Edinburgh in May this year have commissioned their own experts to carry out a report to try to identify the source after saying they have been met with ‘a wall of silence’ from the authorities.
Law firm Irwin Mitchell has repeatedly called for a Public Inquiry into how the outbreak was allowed to happen and how its spread was not prevented. They have asked for information to help their clients but have been advised that since there is a possible criminal prosecution then the information cannot be allowed into the public domain.
But leading lawyers at the firm now say enough is enough and have asked legionnaires experts to compile their own report to identify the source of the illness.
Victims are backing the law firm in commissioning the report and Dunfermline man John Charge who is still suffering the effects saying it is ‘shameful’ that the authorities will not help.
While some of those who contracted Legionnaires’ disease during the outbreak have now recovered, the illness continues to affect 24 of those taking legal action. Some previously healthy victims are now unable to simply walk upstairs without becoming breathless as well as other symptoms including muscle cramps in their legs.
Expert lawyers at Irwin Mitchell have been working with Legionnaires’ disease experts to gather evidence and hope to present their findings in 2013 to provide their clients with much needed answers as to what happened and who was responsible.
Elaine Russell, a partner at Irwin Mitchell representing the victims, said: “Despite repeated requests, the authorities have not provided us with the information themselves so we are left with no option but to appoint our own experts to investigate and report their findings direct so that our clients will know exactly what happened and why themselves and their loved ones became so ill.
“To say that information cannot be released to people who have been injured or died as a result of the outbreak is a disgrace and simply not good enough.
“Many of our clients are still suffering from serious illness and more than six months on have still not been told how they became infected with Legionnaires’ disease.”
John Charge, from Dunfermline, Fife, works opposite the distillery which was the subject of improvements notices in relation to Legionnaires’ disease from the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) and has been named previously as a possible source.
The 50-year-old used to take part in the British Military Fitness exercise programmes but, since contracting Legionnaires’ disease, suffers from cramps in his calf muscles and is now seeing a physiotherapist and is on the NHS waiting list for a scan .
John said: “I started feeling unwell with sickness at the end of May and this developed into a terrible chesty cough and headaches. I was supposed to being going on holiday , but I had to cancel it because I was so ill.
“After coming off the medication for Legionella, In June, I was rushed to Victoria Hospital in Kirkcaldy, with a suspected blood clot in my lung, which was just terrifying.
“My life changed completely when I contracted Legionnaires’ disease and I am desperate for answers as to how it could happen. I am thankful to Irwin Mitchell for their support and their persistence in pushing to find out the truth that we deserve. It is shameful that the authorities still won’t share information with us more than six months after I became ill. Basically I feel as the outbreak is no longer high profile I have been brushed to the side and I am still waiting on a date for further investigation to try and resolve the problem with my legs.”
Irwin Mitchell first called for a Public Inquiry in August saying that it should include a full examination of matters such as the cause of the outbreak, the adequacy of preventative steps and a review of the investigation process as well as an assessment of the co-ordination of the various regulatory bodies involved.
The law firm is also representing over 20 people affected by an outbreak of Legionnaires’ disease in Stoke-on-Trent in England this year.
Russell added: “It is immensely important that the response to and actions taken during the recent Legionnaires’ outbreaks are carefully assessed. Our requests for a Public Inquiry and for basic information is to ensure that lessons are learned from the problems of the past and to ensure adequate steps are being taken to protect the health and wellbeing of the Scottish public.”