A SOLICITORS' group handling a mass of industrial injuries claims against British Coal has set up a hotline to cope with the anticipated response to a High Court ruling.

The Vibration White Finger Litigation Solicitors' Group claims the interim ruling at Newcastle High Court could lead to claims from thousands of sufferers of the disease.

The action being heard in Newcastle has been brought by solicitors acting for the nine lead cases in a multi-party action involving 500 plaintiffs.

Vibration White Finger is a recognised disease which has been behind successful compensation claims from workers in other heavy industries. But this is the first time British Coal has been the subject of claims.

The disease caused by vibrating machinery leads to numbness of the fingers and loss of grip. The judgment on 15 January will be over liability and date of knowledge.

The hotline was the brainchild of the group's steering committee made up of the firms handling the lead cases. They are Irwin Mitchell, of Sheffield, Brian Thompson & Partners and Watson Burton, of Newcastle-upon-Tyne,Thomp-son & Co, of Sunderland, and Hugh James Jones Jenkins, of Merthyr Tydfil.

Irwin Mitchell partner Andrew Tucker said setting up an information hotline had been prompted by the huge numbers of former miners who could be spurred into action by the ruling. Callers will be referred to their union or to local firms which are group members.