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3 March 2023 | Firm News | Article by Ruth Davies

More than £700,000 secured from Ministry of Defence for Royal Marine

We have secured more than £700,000 in compensation for a former Royal Marine, following an eight-day trial in the High Court. The former serviceman sustained noise induced hearing loss and tinnitus because he wasn’t provided with adequate hearing protection or training by the Ministry of Defence, a High Court judge has today ruled.

James Barry


Mr Justice Johnson concluded that 34-year-old James Barry, from Nottingham, was forced to leave the Military after more than three years’ service due to the MoD’s negligence by failing to provide adequate and appropriate hearing protection and training. As a result, Mr Justice Johnson awarded James Barry £713,715 in compensation for his hearing loss and tinnitus and loss of career and pension.

During his time as a Royal Marine, James Barry was provided with yellow foam ear inserts, which he alleged were inadequate and unsuitable to use because they fell out and did not provide situational awareness. While he was sent on various exercises during his service, Mr Barry began noticing hearing problems after Exercise Black Alligator in Twenty Nine Palms in California, which lasted for around two and a half months. The hearing problems were acknowledged by the MoD in hearing tests, but they continued to send him on exercises and subject him to unprotected noise exposure.

Mr Barry was downgraded from his role by the MoD in May 2015, within a few months of Exercise Black Alligator. He was forced to leave the Royal Marines in February 2017 because of his hearing problems. Since his discharge, Mr Barry has worked in vehicle breakage and as a Lorry driver.

If you have been affected by noise-induced hearing loss in the military, get in contact with our military experts

Mr Barry notified the MoD of his intention to make a claim for hearing loss and tinnitus in 2018. The MoD denied they were at fault. My Barry instructed our military experts to issue a claim in 2020. The MoD continued to deny they were at fault throughout the five years of Mr Barry’s claim, but finally admitted they were at fault three weeks before the trial. However, they alleged that Mr Barry was partly to blame for his hearing loss because he failed to replace his yellow foam inserts when they fell out and didn’t wear them under his PRR radio headset.

Mr Justice Johnson concluded that the responsibility for the hearing problems of Mr Barry overwhelmingly falls on the MoD and Mr Barry himself was not at fault in any way. He noted “the problems were well known by the MoD (as demonstrated by the evidence of the witness, and also the documentation from 2012) but, lamentably, it appears that nothing was done by the MoD to address the obvious and serious problem.”

The MoD has indicated that they intend to appeal against the judgment.

Mr Barry has been represented by barristers Harry Steinberg KC and David Green from 12KBW, Robert O’Leary from Crown Office Chambers and Ruth Davies, Associate in our Military Team.

Speaking of the ruling, Ruth Davies said:

“The last six years have been very difficult for James. James was very proud of being a Royal Marine and, through no fault of his own, has had to come to terms with his hearing loss and the loss of his career. Whilst the compensation will not make up for James’ disability and having to leave the job he loved, it is what he deserves and will help him to re-build his life and find a fulfilling career that he can follow notwithstanding his hearing problems.”

Following the eight-day Trial at the High Court in the Royal Courts of Justice, Ruth urges the MoD to accept their failure to protect service personnel from noise exposure and provide appropriate compensation to those suffering with the life changing condition of hearing loss, without forcing them to go to court.

Ruth added:

“Less than one month before this case was due to go to trial, the MoD admitted that they were at fault and had caused Mr Barry’s hearing loss and tinnitus. Even though they admitted fault, James was still forced to attend trial and give evidence as to why he was also not partly to blame for his hearing loss and consequent discharge from the Royal Marines. It is especially disappointing that having eventually accepted they were at fault, the MoD still chose to put James through a trial by suggesting he had been partly responsible for his hearing problems. I’m pleased the Judge agreed with James that there was no merit in that argument.”

Simon Ellis, Partner and Head of our specialist Military Department, representing 4,000 military personnel with noise induced hearing loss claims, added:

“It is simply not acceptable that service personnel such as Mr Barry are still not being given the correct equipment and training and that their lives and careers have been impacted by something that is entirely preventable and should not have occurred. This case could pave the way for others suffering with noise induced hearing loss and/or tinnitus to receive the damages they deserve, even if that injury occurred many years ago or they have been turned down in the past.”

“There’s an alarming lack of awareness that still exists today within the armed forces community over hearing loss and people’s right to redress. Many are put off highlighting problems with their hearing loss because of concerns over the repercussions on their military service and the military culture.”

“Others don’t even realise that they can bring a claim, or believe a civil claim isn’t available to them because they were turned down by the War Pension or the Armed Forces Compensation Schemes – or that it happened too long ago. These factors may not stop injured military personnel and veterans from bringing a claim for their injuries. It’s important that we educate and support those who have served our country, who have been failed by the system, through lack of training and inadequate kit, to ensure they are aware of their legal rights.”

Author bio

Ruth Davies

Senior Associate

Ruth Davies is a Senior Associate within the Industrial Disease department at Hugh James. She qualified as a solicitor in 2011 specialising civil litigation before joining Hugh James in 2012. She has experience in dealing with group actions and claimant industrial disease litigation, with specialism in occupational noise induced hearing loss claims.

Disclaimer: The information on the Hugh James website is for general information only and reflects the position at the date of publication. It does not constitute legal advice and should not be treated as such. If you would like to ensure the commentary reflects current legislation, case law or best practice, please contact the blog author.


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