Services personnel risk their lives for their country but, just like any other employees, they are entitled to expect that all reasonable steps will be taken to ensure their safety. In a recent case, a former Royal Marine who suffered hearing loss as a result of exposure to gunfire won six-figure compensation from the Ministry of Defence.
During his 15 years in the Corps of Royal Marines, the man served on active duty in Afghanistan and trained fellow Marines in marksmanship skills. He was exposed to thousands of live rounds being discharged and the noise of stun grenades, helicopters, other aircraft and explosive devices. Fearing that his deteriorating hearing would eventually lead to his medical discharge, he left the Corps when he was in his early 30s.
He gave evidence that without the benefit of hearing aids, he could not hear a baby monitor or an oven's timer going off. His sleep was interrupted by ringing in his ears, he had trouble hearing public announcements and he frequently did not realise that his wife or others were speaking to him if he was not looking at them.
After legal proceedings were commenced on his behalf, the Ministry of Defence conceded 80 per cent liability for his injuries, but disputed the value of his claim. In ruling on the matter, the High Court accepted that the primary reason why he left the Corps was his concern about worsening hearing loss, rather than a desire to earn higher remuneration in the private security industry. He was awarded total compensation of £545,766, including £25,000 for his pain, suffering and loss of amenity. This is an exceptionally large settlement for a hearing loss claim and reflects the man's relative youth and the impact of his impairment on his future employment prospects.