OP compensation bid is back on

31 January 2001

OP compensation bid is back on

By Donald MacPhail

A BID for compensation by farmers who believe they were poisoned by organophosphate (OP) sheep dips is back on.

New legal aid has been approved by the Legal Services Commission after an appeal by Herefordshire and Powys solicitors Gabb & Co.

The commission accepted 11 out of 18 appeals.

This marks a dramatic transformation from last autumn, when the case seemed dead and buried after farmers were advised to abandon claims.

London-based lawyers, unable to find enough evidence to prove a link between low-level exposure to OPs and illness, advised that further legal aid could not be justified.

Lis Charles, senior partner with Gabb & Co at Hay-on-Wye, Powys, said she was delighted at the outcome of the appeal last Friday (26 January).

She insisted that the only fair way to decide whether illnesses were caused by OPs was to ask a judge in a proper hearing.

“This is an issue of major public interest to the farming community,” she added.

Gabb & Co is representing around 20 clients and is involved in a generic group action on behalf of sheep farmers against employers and manufacturers.

Ms Charles said it was not too late for other people who believe OPs have damaged their health and are eligible for legal aid to join the action.

Those not eligible for legal aid could look to insurance, she suggested, while previous claimants who agreed to discontinue actions should re-examine their agreements.

In the first stage of the new action, Gabb & Co will go to the High Court in London in the summer to contest an attempt by defendants to strike out the claim.

Roger Cook, director of veterinary medicine industry group the National Office of Animal Health, said it was difficult to comment on the new action until he had seen details of evidence being presented.

He pointed out that, despite exhaustive research over many years, no link had been proven between low-level exposure to OPs and ill health.

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