Page last updated at 17:48 GMT, Friday, 27 March 2009

Delay in 'toxic sofa' payout

Yvonne Dalton: "The skin just started peeling away"

Hundreds of people who suffered burns and rashes from faulty leather sofas will have to wait longer to find out if they are to be paid compensation.

In a hearing at the High Court on Friday, barristers representing Argos and Walmsleys said the stores admitted selling faulty leather sofas.

They said they wanted compensation claims for proven injuries agreed as quickly as possible.

But insurers for a third store, Land of Leather is contesting its liability.

Land of Leather went into administration in January and its insurer, Zurich, is contesting whether it is liable to provide compensation.

The High Street stores, along with 11 others may have to pay more than £10m in compensation and legal costs, the shoppers' lawyers say.

They claim that makes it "the largest group compensation claim ever seen in British Courts"

Lawyers are to meet in June to try to settle the claims out of court, and if not, the next hearing will be scheduled for July.

Yvonne Dalton's leg
Chemicals used to protect the sofas caused burns

The sofas, which were manufactured in China, were packed with sachets of an anti-mould chemical called dimethyl-fumarate to stop them from going mouldy during storage in humid conditions.

Commonly known as DMF, the toxic, fine white powder has been used by some manufacturers to protect leather goods like furniture and shoes from mould. Even very small amounts can be harmful.

Flaking skin

Yvonne Dalton, bought a leather sofa suite from Argos in April 2007. Almost a year later she started to notice a rash developing on her arms and legs.

TOXIC SOFA SYMPTOMS
Blisters
Sores
Rashes
Eye irritation

After a few weeks her skin started flaking off. She says the irritation was so bad she was off work for two months.

Yvonne was seen by more than a dozen doctors, who couldn't work out what was causing the rash.

She said: "It was very, very painful - I couldn't sleep at night, I couldn't walk about, I couldn't drive, the fact that every time I did walk about the skin would fall off and I would leave a trail of it - therefore I couldn't go to work."

For a long time none of those suffering knew it was their sofa causing the problem - so they simply kept sitting on the defective furniture, and worsening their condition.

'Thousands suffering'

Many people discovered they might have been affected when they saw an investigation on the BBC's consumer affairs programme Watchdog.

Meanwhile several law firms realised there could have been thousands suffering, without knowing the cause of their injuries, and put adverts in national newspapers, warning people they may have been affected.

Lawyers now think up to 200,000 defective sofa suites may have been sold and many more claimants may still exist.



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