3 August 2001
Confusion reigns over OP action

By Donald MacPhail

CONFUSION surrounds the future of a class action on behalf of farmers who claim they have been poisoned by organophosphate sheep dip.

A High Court judge has thrown out the cases of four out of 11 claimants in the action brought by solicitors Gabb & Co, from Hay-on-Wye, Powys.

Mr Justice Morland has yet to give the reasons for his judgement, but indicated on Tuesday (31 July) that the class action should be discontinued.

However, until he gives a full judgement in late autumn it is unclear whether the remaining cases can proceed individually.

“Well have to wait and see,” Gabb & Co partner Elisabeth Charles told FWi. “Until we are given the full judgement, we wont know where we stand.”

Shane Sayers of Kennedys, who represented OP manufacturers, told the Financial Times that the action was “ill-conceived” given “the lack of causal evidence”.

He said the backing of the action by the Legal Services Commission (LSC) had been a “huge waste of public funds”.

According to some estimates, 1.3 million of public money has been spent preparing various actions on behalf of alleged victims of OP exposure.

Gabb & Co dramatically revived the action in January by securing funding from the LSC at a time when the case seemed dead and buried.

London solicitors Hodge Jones & Allen had pulled out after telling farmers that it had failed to uncover sufficient evidence to link OP dips with ill-health.

Hodge Jones & Allen said it was unable to justify any more public money being spent by the LSC on the action.

People who claim to have been poisoned by OPs complain of symptoms which include nausea, chest tightness, aching joints, headaches and depression.

Pesticide manufacturers say exhaustive research has not confirmed any link between low-level exposure to OPs and illness.

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