DMF victims lose opening legal battle19 March 2010
More than 300 consumers who suffered toxic burns from sofas bought from Land of Leather will not receive compensation, the High Court has ruled. The decision at the Royal Courts of Justice in London on March 18 follows months of legal discussions with the defunct retailer's insurers, Zurich.
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The insurance company's bosses argued that the chain breached the terms of its policy when it struck a deal with Chinese manufacturer Linkwise, which sold furniture containing the chemical dimethyl fumarate (DMF).
The argument was upheld and now negates insurance for hundreds of customers who purchased furniture containing DMF from Land of Leather, said Mr Justice Teare.
He ruled that these customers did not have to be compensated by Zurich, but the case continues for thousands more customers who still have hopes of compensation.
More than 4,000 people in the UK developed serious skin allergies, rashes and burns, as well as respiratory complaints after buying certain Chinese-manufactured leather sofas.
Richard Langton, leading the group litigation, described the ruling as ‘a devastating blow for victims’. Langton, senior litigation partner for Russell Jones & Walker, said: ‘A group of over 300 innocent people who sustained in many cases severe injuries, due to an admittedly faulty product, will receive no compensation’. Consumers must beware that buying products made in China is potentially dangerous and if something goes wrong they have less chance of redress.’ He added: ‘Zurich’s delay in notifying us added insult to injury by making our clients believe they would be paid. Unless this decision is overturned on appeal by the Court of Appeal a great injustice will have been done.’
Land of Leather was placed in administration in January 2009 but a number of test cases covering sofas sold by the company which contained DMF and which were not manufactured by Linkwise, go before the court in May.