Judgment on the test case alleging a link between Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease and human growth hormone treatment is expected this week.
The test case at the High Court, which lawyers say was fought to the hilt, is believed to be the first CJD case to be litigated anywhere in the world, as well as the first multi-party pharmaceutical case taken in this country.
David Body and Delyth Jones, of Sheffield-based firm Irwin Mitchell, and Peter Llewelyn and Pauline Roberts, of the Smith Llewelyn Partnership in Swansea, are acting for the families of the CJD victims in a joint action. They are instructing Robert Owen QC and Stephen Irwin.
The case concerns 12 of the 19 people who contracted CJD after undergoing human growth hormone treatment as children between 1958 and 1985.
However, the outcome will affect some 2,000 others who received the hormone treatment and who might now be incubating the fatal disease.
Litigation was initiated after the Department of Health, which admits the hormone was the source of the CJD infection, repeatedly refused a public enquiry into the cases.
The plaintiffs allege negligence, saying that when the hormone was administered there was knowledge that CJD could be transmitted.
Body, who has been approached for advice on possible litigation concerning CJD contracted through eating beef, said the case would have important implications for any future BSE litigation.
He said the case would determine firstly how much knowledge should be input to the Government, and secondly the duty of care the Government owed the public as a regulator.
“Everybody is waiting for this decision,” Body said. “The result will be crucial to any BSE litigation. And whatever the outcome, a lot of families will feel that getting to court is a victory in itself.”