PI network targets mass asthma action with whistle-blowers' hotline

A controversial network of law firms involved in multi-party personal injury claims has established its first campaign to actively cultivate business.

The Allied Lawyers Response Team (Alert) has set up a hotline for whistle-blowers to reveal breaches of safety regulations that may be causing asthma.

It plans to use the information to determine whether to start a mass claim.

Alert, which has 23 member-firms throughout England, was established in June last year.

It is using the whistle-blower line to target factories which expose employees to asthma-triggering chemicals, such as those used in industrial cleaning fluids and sterilising agents.

The network's founder Graham Ross, of the Ross Park Partnership, said callers would receive information on the risks of their type of employment and safety measures their employers should have in place.

“We are pro-active in the way we approach law,” Ross said. “We identify important public interest issues that involve personal injury being caused to large members of the public, and if we consider there are appropriate actions to take forward we begin to promote them.”

Michael McKenna, head of insurance litigation at Liverpool firm Hill Dickinson Davis Campbell, said the hotline could damage the reputation of lawyers.

“Like it or loathe it, the impression the man on the street has of American lawyers ambulance chasing is creeping in here,” he said.

He added that potentially there was a problem with employees revealing information about employers when they had a duty to act in good faith.

But Alison Crawley, of the Law Society's professional ethics division, said Alert was not breaching the society's publicity code.

“We believe the ability to advertise increases access to justice, and nobody will succeed in an action unless there is a good cause,” she said. “It could be said lawyers doing this type of work are improving safety standards in places of work.”

The whistle-blower hotline can be accessed through BT operators by requesting free phone Alert.