I read with interest an article on the BBC website on Thursday 20th January 2011, of a Sergeant with the Parachute Regiment who had received substantial compensation from the Ministry of Defence having lost his left leg as well as significant injuries to his other leg.
The article describes the claim having been brought on the basis of 'breach of duty before contact with the enemy' (my emphasis). Claims generally arising as a result of battle or conflict cannot be brought against the Ministry of Defence as there is a simple defence of 'combat immunity'.
What I anticipate has influenced the Defendant in making such a payment rather than relying on the combat immunity defence is what I would have thought is no doubt a catalogue of errors prior to the incident occurring where Sergeant Pearson lost his leg in a minefield.
It would appear that no prior information was given as to the location of the minefield and it took some considerable time before the men were finally rescued by 2 US helicopters. From a legal perspective this is a very interesting case. It indicates that whilst combat immunity is in my view still likely to be raised for the vast majority of cases, the MoD have nevertheless acknowledged that they have a duty to its officers and men in conflict situations and whilst establishing then a breach of duty is likely in my view to be set at quite a high level, this is not an insurmountable hurdle.
This is very much a case which is likely to turn upon its own facts. I am sure that the disclosure received from the MoD made very interesting reading indeed and I wish Sergeant Pearson well indeed in his ongoing recovery.
Tristan Hallam is a Principal Lawyer in Personal Injury in the London office of Slater and Gordon Lawyers. If you or a member of your family has suffered an accident or injury call our expert personal injury solicitors on 0800 916 9046 or contact us online and one of our specialist personal injury team will review your compensation claim for free.