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Latex allergy payout for client

Leigh Day & Co has achieved an award of £260,000 for a dental nurse who developed type 1 latex allergy whilst working for the RAF.

Photo: istock

25 July 2006

A former RAF sergeant has obtained an award of £260,000 following her diagnosis of a type 1 latex allergy in 2003.

Lisa Furphy, who joined the RAF in 1987, worked as a dental nurse, dental assistant and practice manager within the RAF for over 16 years and had a promising career ahead of her with expected promotion to Flight Sergeant or higher and hopes of achieving a commission.

During her service she was required to use powdered latex gloves and as a result developed a sensitivity to latex which ultimately lead to her diagnosis with a type 1 allergy – the most severe form of latex allergy possible.

Ms Furphy developed symptoms in 1993 and was diagnosed with a possible latex allergy in 1996.  Despite this she was told she could continue in her employment which ultimately aggravated her sensitivity and ultimately lead to anaphylactic attack early in 2003.  She was invalided out of the RAF one year later.

Mrs Furphy’s case was settled outside the door of the High Court in London immediately prior to the trial.  Her settlement represented a significant achievement following three years of litigation.  The Defendant was arguing that her case was time barred because she had known about the allergy for more than three years and that she had contributed to her own illness by continuing to use latex gloves after her diagnosis.

Latex allergy

Widespread knowledge of the dangers of latex exposure and the development of latex allergy became known in the late 1980s/early 1990s. Since 1988 it has been possible to hold an employer strictly liable for the development of a latex allergy.  There are various types of latex allergies with type 1 being the most severe and giving rise to an immediate allergic reaction.  Symptoms include asthma, conjunctivitis, hives, rhinitis and,  in severe cases, anaphylaxis which can restrict breathing and in unusual cases cause death.  The sensitivity develops following the inhalation of latex protein from the dust applied to the gloves to make them easier to put on and take off.  As a result, latex allergies have become common throughout the healthcare industry where latex gloves are most frequently used.

Lisa was represented by Daniel Easton and Sally Moore at Leigh Day & Co.  Daniel commented:
“The RAF investigated Lisa’s allergy as far back as 1995 and told her that she could continue in her job where she received further exposure to powdered latex gloves.  As a result she has been left with a life long allergy and had her career ruined.  The fact that she saw this claim through to the Court door and achieved this settlement is testament to her determination.  After losing her career to which she had been devoted since leaving school, the settlement will allow her to rebuild her working life without the risk of interference from her latex allergy.

Although the immediate affects of latex allergy are not readily apparent, anaphylaxis is potentially life threatening and an allergy can have a devastating impact on people’s lives.  It is important for employers to recognise this and to take all steps to minimise exposure to latex products to ensure their employees’ health and safety.  This settlement is evidence to the fact that where employers fail to do so, they will ultimately pay the price.”

For more information please contact Daniel Easton on 020 7650 1200.

Information was correct at time of publishing. See terms and conditions for further details.

Information was correct at time of publishing. See terms and conditions for further details.

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