Firms spearheading a campaign on behalf of soldiers said to be suffering Gulf War Syndrome have again lost their bid to play a lead role in action planned against the Ministry of Defence.
Donn & Co, Leigh Day & Co, and Roythorne & Co formed the Gulf War Action Group in 1992 after Gulf War veterans complained of illness.
The firms, which have nearly 1,000 sufferers on their books, first lost their application to lead the multi-party action after the Legal Aid Board put the work out to tender last summer.
King's Lynn firm Dawbarns and Plymouth-based Geoffrey Stevens won the deal despite having fewer Gulf War clients.
When the Donn & Co group appealed, a High Court judge ordered the LAB to retender the contract. But last week, a re-constituted board awarded the work to Dawbarns and Stevens for the second time.
Lincolnshire firm Roythorne was not in the consortium for the second application.
An LAB spokesman declined to disclose reasons for the decision although all the firms involved would be receiving a written explanation.
Donn & Co partner Hilary Meridith said: "We are devastated that we will not have the opportunity to lead the action after four and a half years of representing the interests of a large number of clients. I am perplexed by the LAB's stance because we have already done a lot of research and there could be duplication of costs."
Peter Bright, of Geoffrey Stevens, said: "We have considerable experience of medical litigation built up over many years. You don't get this kind of brief because of the number of clients you represent. I am confident that our expertise will carry this whole case forward."
The LAB said: "We are pleased work on the Gulf War claims will now be able to press ahead. The contract will cover the central work in the action but the board would like to see the full co-operation between all solicitors involved."