High Court rules in favour of 1650 customers

Victims of ‘toxic sofas’ manufactured in China that caused serious burns will receive combined payouts totalling up to £20m, the High Court has agreed.

At the Royal Courts of Justice, Mr Justice MacDuff ordered that around 1,650 people, who suffered painful medical complaints due to the presence of a highly sensitising chemical called DMF (Dimethyl Fumarate) in leather sofas manufactured by Chinese companies Linkwise and Eurosofa, would receive compensation for their injuries.

The claimants, who took out what is believed to be the largest consumer group litigation in UK legal history, suffered severe skin or eye complaints, breathing difficulties or other medical complications, after exposure to DMF.

The group action was launched against the three retailers of the affected sofas – Argos, Land of Leather and Walmsleys – all of whom admitted liability. They were represented by solicitors Russell Jones & Walker.

Following today’s decision, victims will now receive compensation payouts expected to be between £1,175 and £9,000, depending on the severity of their symptoms.

But Zurich won a ruling last month that it would not have to pay compensation to customers of Land of Leather, which is now in administration, who had lodged claims under the Third Party (Rights Against Insurers) Act.

High Court judge Mr Justice Tear agreed that Zurich was entitled to decline Land of Leather’s claim on the grounds that the defunct furniture retailer had breached the terms of its policy by making an unauthorised agreement with the sofas’ manufacturers to gain favourable trading terms.

Richard Langton, senior litigation partner at Russell Jones & Walker said: “Many suffered serious health problems, simply because of the new sofa they chose. At the start there was a real fear factor as nobody knew the cause. The doctors took nine months to identify the chemical. Some people thought they had skin cancer or were dying.

“We believe many sofas are still in use with DMF in them. Anyone who develops symptoms should seek urgent medical advice. Anyone who has not registered a claim yet, should seek help as time is running out to bring a claim.