Judge says insurer will not have to make more than 300 pay outs

The High Court has ruled that Zurich will not have to pay compensation to more than 300 consumers who suffered burns from ‘toxic sofas’ purchased from Land of Leather.

At the Royal Courts of Justice, Justice Teare has ruled that Zurich did not have to pay compensation for their injuries to some claimants who purchased furniture containing a banned and highly sensitising chemical called DMF (Dimethyl Fumarate) from the now defunct furniture retailer.

More than 4,000 people in the UK have experienced skin allergies, rashes and burns after using Chinese manufactured leather sofas bought from Land of Leather, Walmsley Furnishing and Argos.

Although all three retailers had previously admitted liability, in March 2009 Zurich announced that they would not provide insurance cover for Land of Leather claims saying the chain had breached the terms of its policy with them.

Land of Leather had struck a deal with manufacturer Linkwise which they claimed breached a condition of the policy not to do so. That decision has now been upheld by the courts.

Richard Langton, senior litigation partner at Russell Jones & Walker, who is leading the group litigation against the retailers in question said: “This is a devastating blow for victims who purchased their sofas from Land of Leather, all of whom believed for almost 12 months that Zurich were going to pay out.

“A group of over 300 innocent people who sustained in many cases severe injuries, due to an admittedly faulty product, will receive no compensation. Consumers must beware that buying products made in China is potentially dangerous and if something goes wrong they have less chance of redress. Zurich’s delay in notifying us added insult to injury by making our clients believe they would be paid. Unless this decision is overturned on Appeal by the Court of Appeal a great injustice will have been done.”

Land of Leather was placed in administration in January 2009 but a number of test cases covering sofas sold by the company which contained DMF and which were not manufactured by Linkwise, go before the court in May.

EU manufacturers were already banned from using the dangerous chemical, and it has since been banned from use in imported products after consumers in at least five EU countries suffered skin burns and breathing problems due to the chemical.