Bringing clarity to causation

Myalgic Encephalomyelitis, sometimes nicknamed "Yuppie Flu'', has at last won legal recognition as a condition that warrants compensation in a ruling which will give hope to sufferers.

A recent decision of the Appeal Court reinstated a December 1992 High Court ruling in which 53-year-old Ronald Page was awarded £162,153 for ME. Page claimed he had a relapse after a 1987 road crash which forced him to give up his career as a teacher

When the case first went to the High Court, the ruling of Mr Justice Otton to award damages on the basis that ME was a foreseeable result of the crash was seen as a landmark decision. But subsequent appeal moves clouded the message put out by the High Court ruling and it was overturned in March 1994 by the Court of Appeal which ruled that ME was not a reasonably foreseeable outcome of the accident.

But in February last year the House of Lords overturned the Court of Appeal decision and held that it was reasonably foreseeable in a landmark ruling on the law of tort and the law relating to forseeability.

However, it then sent the matter back to the Court of Appeal to decide causation.

That hearing has now resulted in the Master of the Rolls, Sir Thomas Bingham, and Lords Justices Morritt and Auld upholding Lord Otton's first High Court decision that the trauma of the accident had caused the reappearance of the ME in Page and it reinstated the original damages award along with interest.

That ruling is one of considerable significance, said Anthony Collins, chair and senior litigation partner with the London firm Edward Lewis which represented Page.

He said it appears to be the first time ME, also called Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, has received judicial recognition and the ruling will greatly help other plaintiffs suffering from ME to bring actions to establish causation.

Collins said: "It has been a fairly complex case in terms of medical issues because it has involved understanding what ME is, which has been treated with considerable scepticism in the past, and how people suffer from it.

"Highly technical legal and medical issues had to be considered in respect of what has been a grey area of personal injury law."

The case rates as one of the longest ever personal injury claims and Collins said it was complicated by the fact that the defendants took every conceivable point they could.

But he believes the depth at which it was necessary to argue the case has given added weight to the ruling in favour of his client.

"This is a particularly detailed and definitive judgment which gives judicial and medical recognition to our client's condition and makes it clear that he is entitled to compensation for the circumstances which led to and caused his relapse," he said.