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Friendly fire

On 25 March 2003, the fourth day of the Iraq War, a British Challenger II tank  was mistakenly attacked by a fellow British tank. Two soldiers were killed and another two crewmen were seriously injured in the so-called friendly fire.

Leigh Day represented the family of Corporal Stephen Allbutt, who was killed in the incident, and Daniel Twiddy and Andrew Julien, two soldiers seriously injured in the attack. The claim against the UK Ministry of Defence was that it had been negligent because it failed to adequately train and equip them and/or their tanks with technology  that could have prevented the injuries and death.

The Ministry of Defence argued that it did not owe a duty of care because the deaths and injuries occurred in battle and are therefore covered by the doctrine of combat immunity. It also argued that the claim raised issues about military resources and procurement, which are political rather than judicial. These arguments were defeated in the High Court, the Court of Appeal and the Supreme Court. In the end, the claimants decided not to proceed with the case. However, the case established an important legal principle regarding the State’s duty of care to soldiers.

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