Military personnel submit to discipline and are inevitably exposed to risk of harm, but that does not mean that the Ministry of Defence (MoD) owes them no duty of care. In one case that proves the point, a soldier who suffered hearing loss and tinnitus as the legacy of battleground noise has been awarded almost £200,000 in damages.
The Fijian infantryman had a family history of enlisting in the British Army and served tours of duty in Cyprus and, twice, in Afghanistan. He claimed that the MoD was negligent in failing to disabuse him of his mistaken belief that wearing radio headphones would protect him from the noise of heavy ordnance.
He has been left with reduced hearing in his left ear and tinnitus so intrusive that he has to sleep with the television on so as to drown out the ringing in his ear. He was ultimately medically discharged from the Army and, whilst the issue of liability for his injuries had been settled, the MoD disputed the value of his claim.
In awarding him £191,881 in damages, the court took into account his pain, suffering and loss of amenity and the impact that his injury will have on his future earning capacity. Having followed in his older brother's footsteps into the Army, he had been justifiably proud of his military career and part of the award was to compensate him for the loss of his congenial employment.