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Solicitor's legal challenge against GlaxoSmithKline can continue

Myodil spine injury claim can proceed after High Court limitation ruling

Posted on 22 December 2016

A 59 year old solicitor, Keith Lewin, has succeeded in the latest stage of his seven figure legal claim against Glaxo Operations UK Limited (part of the corporate structure of the pharmaceutical company GlaxoSmithKline) who he believes is responsible for the illness that has left him a wheelchair user.

Mr Lewin is represented by product liability solicitors Jill Paterson and Thomas Jervis.  

Mr Lewin is suing Glaxo Operations UK Limited (part of the corporate structure of GlaxoSmithKline) for a seven figure sum arising out of his exposure to Myodil, an oil based contrast medium, which was injected into his spine in 1973 when he underwent a diagnostic Myelogram procedure to investigate back pain as a 15 year old.
It is alleged that his exposure to Myodil caused him to develop the spinal condition known as adhesive arachnoiditis which is a serious inflammatory condition of the spinal cord.  Mr Lewin is now severely, permanently disabled. He requires the use of a motorised wheelchair in order to mobilise.

Mr Lewin alleges that the Defendant (the successor of Glaxo Laboratories Limited) was negligent in respect of the manufacture, supply and use of Myodil.

Myodil was used as an oil-based contrast agent in the imaging of spines of patients with back pain in the United Kingdom from the 1940s until its product licence expired in 1987.  

There was previous UK Group Litigation brought by a large number of other Claimants (eventually 426) in negligence against Glaxo in the early 1990s arising out of their alleged exposure to Myodil. That litigation settled in July 1995 for the sum of £7 million without an admission of liability.

Glaxo argued that Mr Lewin’s claim was time barred and should not be allowed to continue.  They say that he should have been put on a train of enquiry in the late 1970s or early 1990s which would have led him to make a legal claim much earlier.

Mr Lewin argued that it was not until 2012 that he was diagnosed with adhesive arachnoiditis before he underwent exploratory spinal surgery known as a laminectomy.  It was submitted that even if the Court were to deem that his claim had been brought outside the three year statutory limitation period, it would still be equitable to allow the claim to proceed.

Mr Justice Goss handed down his judgment on 20 December 2016 in the High Court ruling that Mr Lewin’s claim was brought within the legal time limit, and that he would allow the claim to continue.

Leigh Day product liability solicitor Jill Paterson said:

“My client is very pleased that his spinal injury claim is allowed to proceed. He suffers with constant debilitating pain and has to use a wheelchair. His life has been significantly affected”.