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Former Lincolnshire soldier wins right to sue Ministry of Defence

By Barnaby_B  |  Posted: October 22, 2012

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A former soldier from Lincolnshire has won the right sue the Ministry of Defence for negligence following a landmark ruling.

Dan Twiddy, of Stamford, was badly injured during a 'friendly fire' incident in Iraq in March 2003 in which one Challenger 2 tank hit another.

Corporal Stephen Allbutt, 35, of Sneyd Green, Stoke-on-Trent, Staffordshire, was killed in the incident and Andy Julien, of Bolton, Greater Manchester, was also seriously injured.

A group of families began legal action as a result of the deaths of a number of soldiers, following the American-led invasion of Iraq in 2003.

Relatives say the MoD failed to provide armoured vehicles or equipment which could have saved lives and should pay compensation.

In June 2011, a High Court judge ruled that relatives could pursue claims on negligence grounds – but not under human rights legislation.

The MoD had attempted to stop their claims for negligence from progressing and first tried to get them kicked out in June 2011. When that failed, the MoD appealed the decision in June this year.

That appeal has now been thrown out by the Court of Appeal, after Master of the Rolls Lord Neuberger described the MoD’s arguments as ‘fatally flawed’.

The MoD claimed it should be released from any duty of care for failing to adequately equip them because the deaths and injuries occurred on the battlefield in a combat situation, and therefore their claims should not proceed through the courts.

It also argued decisions about battlefield equipment were for politicians and commanders, not for the courts.

But in his judgment, Lord Neuberger said: “The duty of care owed by the Ministry of Defence, as employer, to the members of the Armed Forces, as employees, does exist and has been recognised, without demur, by the courts.

“It includes a duty to provide safe systems of work and safe equipment.”

Solicitor Shubhaa Srinivasan, a partner with law firm Leigh Day and Co, said: “The court has categorically rejected the MoD’s argument that the MoD can release itself from owing a duty of care to soldiers who suffered deaths and injuries in the battlefield due to alleged inadequate or poor equipment.

“As a prudent employer, the MoD can have no excuses now and must get on with the business of ensuring that troops are properly equipped, if not, it can be vulnerable to negligence claims.”

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