Toxic Sofa Payout Delayed, Insurer Contesting Liability

by Gopalan on  April 4, 2009 at 2:33 PM Medico Legal News
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 Toxic Sofa Payout Delayed, Insurer Contesting Liability
Hundreds of people in the UK suffered burns and rashes from faulty leather sofas. They are hoping for big compensation, but payout is being delayed as an insurer is contesting its liability.

As many as 12 outlets may have to pay more than £10m in compensation and legal costs.

In a hearing at the High Court last week, barristers representing Argos and Walmsleys said the stores admitted selling faulty leather sofas.

They said they wanted compensation claims for proven injuries agreed as quickly as possible.

But Zurich, the insurers for a third store, Land of Leather, say they are yet to determine on their own liability as the company had gone into administration. 

A Welsh pensioner left with agonising injuries caused by toxic fumes from his sofa fears he might die before he gets compensation.

The skin on Edward Hartman's back, bottom and scalp peeled off after he bought a leather sofa from Argos.

The 77-year-old from Ely, Cardiff, is one of more than 1,800 people across the UK making a mass claim.

And though his wife Joan, 73, was unaffected, he came out in a painful rash that left him unable to work or sleep.

A half-inch agonising crust formed on his body before the his skin flaked off and his hair began to fall out.

He told the Echo, a Wales newspaper he had been left very weak and also has trouble with his sight and hearing.

His doctor told him it was the worst skin condition he had ever seen but Mr Hartman refused to go to hospital because his wife was concerned he would pick up a superbug.

After he started taking medication for his back, one of his kidneys started failing and it now operates at only 40% efficiency.

Mr Hartman has never received an apology from Argos for what happened. And he said when it replaced the sofa it charged him an extra £60.

Many people discovered they might have been affected when they saw an investigation on the BBC's consumer affairs programme Watchdog.

Meanwhile several law firms realised there could have been thousands suffering, without knowing the cause of their injuries, and put adverts in national newspapers, warning people they may have been affected.

Lawyers now think up to 200,000 defective sofa suites may have been sold and many more claimants may still exist.

A spokeswoman for Argos said: "Over the last 18 months there have been issues regarding certain sofas manufactured by a company based in China, which were supplied to Argos and a number of other retailers.

"This issue is currently the subject of a group litigation order so we are unable to comment on any individual cases.

"Argos no longer sells the products."

Lawyers are to meet in June to try to settle the claims out of court, and if not, the next hearing will be scheduled for July.

Source: Medindia

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