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Thursday, 21 November, 2002, 14:19 GMT
Nurse wins latex glove appeal
Hospital glove
Many health care workers use latex gloves
A nurse from south Wales has won her landmark appeal case after claiming that an allergy to latex hospital gloves forced her to end her career.

The case of Alison Dugmore, 34, from Baglan near Port Talbot, has established for the first time that employers are strictly liable for injuries caused by hazardous substances.


If the decision today stops other people suffering the way that I have, it will have all been worthwhile

Alison Dugmore

Health authority lawyers have said it could "open the floodgates" to further damages claims.

Mrs Dugmore will now pursue damages in the county court which the union Unison believe should be a six figure sum.

She suffered a severe allergic reaction while working at Swansea's Morriston Hospital in December 1997.

In April, she lost her initial claim for damages, which she brought against the trusts which managed the hospitals in which she worked.

Compensation

But she launched a fresh appeal for compensation in the appeal court in London in October.

At the time of Mrs Dugmore's extreme allergic reaction in 1997, her sensitivity to latex had been established and she had been given vinyl gloves.

However, it was enough for her to come into contact with colleagues wearing them, or even latex-laden dust, to trigger the reaction which, in the very worst cases, can prove fatal, the court was told.

Mrs Dugmore, a mother of two, sued Morriston Hospital NHS Trust and Swansea NHS Trust, which manages Singleton Hospital where she previously worked between 1989 and 1997.

Singleton hospital
Mrs Dugmore worked at Singleton hospital

She told BBC Radio Wales: "I could have died.

"The case has been a real hard slog.

"I am finally coming to terms with the fact that I will not be returning to nursing.

"It was very difficult for my children to witness and for them to learn how to use adrenaline when I became ill.

"I hope this stops this sort of thing happening to anyone else. Employers must accept responsibility for their employees. I have honestly not thought about the money."

Landmark decision

Her solicitor Michael Antoniw added: "This is a landmark decision.

"The judge said that employers have an absolute duty to find information about hazards that came injure people.

"It is tragic that Alison has not been able to work since. It will go back to the county courts to decide the final figure for compensation.

"All her plans for the rest of her life have been put on hold.

"She is also at risk of serious anaphylatic attacks still.

"There are quite a number of people who will benefit from this ruling."

Ms Dugmore added she would never be able to return to nursing unless hospitals became entirely latex-free environments.

She revealed that she now has to carry around adrenalin to guard against the danger of going into potentially fatal anaphylactic shock.

Liability

The Appeal Court judges cleared Morriston Hospital of blame for what happened, but ruled Swansea NHS Trust were strictly liable.

Lady Justice Hall said it would not have been "rocket science" for Singleton Hospital to have replaced Mrs Dugmore's latex gloves with vinyl alternatives.

She said the burden was on the NHS Trust to prove it had taken all reasonably practicable steps to protect her.

Stephen Shaw, counsel for the NHS trusts, said the decision had "enormous consequences for employers".

"It does create almost limitless possibilities," he said.

"This court has found that liability exists retrospectively and this will open the floodgates."


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