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8 July 2024 | Comment | Featured articles | Article by Simon Ellis

Major breakthrough for thousands in military hearing loss claims

The Ministry of Defence (MoD) has agreed to drop legal defences that have hampered armed forces personnel from securing compensation in hearing loss cases for decades.

The Ministry has reached settlement terms with law firm Hugh James which mean it will no longer dispute that it owes a duty of care to members of the armed forces who have suffered hearing loss while serving their country.

In addition, for Hugh James’ cases, the MoD has committed to abandon its defence of ‘limitation’ which has prevented some claims succeeding because they were brought too late. It has also dropped its defence based on the level of noise claimants were exposed to during their service.

This is the first time the MoD has reached an agreement which will benefit large numbers of current and former military personnel suffering with hearing loss.

Hugh James clients therefore now only have to prove that any hearing loss was sustained during their time in the military.

The MoD will waive the defences it previously deployed for claimants who have already signed up with Hugh James, or who sign up with the firm by 30th January 2026. However, anyone who believes they may have a valid claim should register with Hugh James as soon as possible to have it dealt with under the ‘matrix’.

The agreement also contains a ‘matrix’ which is based on the date the claimant left military service. Those still serving can also claim under the matrix agreement. This will offer clarity to successful claimants who have suffered hearing loss. The matrix will ensure the settlement process will be easier for all parties and reduce costs. It also means any member of the armed forces who served after 1987 and can show they have suffered noise-induced hearing loss will be entitled to compensation.

For claimants represented by other law firms, the MoD reserves the right not to offer the same terms as set out in the matrix.

Simon Ellis, Partner and Head of the specialist Military Department, representing approximately 5,000 military personnel with noise induced hearing loss claims, commented:

“This is a groundbreaking development for servicemen and women seeking justice for their hearing loss.

“Many military personnel suffered hearing loss that was entirely preventable, had they been provided with the correct equipment and training. As a result, individuals have had their careers prematurely ended, other employment opportunities denied to them, and their personal lives irrevocably changed. People who put their lives on the line in the service of our country should expect that they are not put in additional unnecessary danger by their employer.

“The Ministry of Defence has both acknowledged the duty of care that it owes military personnel to protect their hearing and agreed that all individuals discharged after 1987 can secure the compensation they are entitled to for any hearing loss resulting from their military service.”

The agreement follows the judgment in the case of former Royal Marine James Barry in March 2023. The MoD accepted it was negligent in failing to provide adequate and appropriate hearing protection and training, and the High Court rejected their argument that Mr. Barry was partially responsible for his hearing loss for failing to use hearing protection.

The court awarded Mr. Barry £713,715 in compensation for his hearing loss and tinnitus which ended his service career and resulted in a subsequent loss of pension.

Today’s agreement reduces the scope of a trial that is due to take place in a number of lead cases.

The MoD has accepted that exposure to noise in the military is a cause of hearing loss so the only issues to be decided, in the lead cases, relate to how much compensation they are entitled to.

The lead claimants’ trial is expected to take place next year. Following the conclusion of these cases it is overwhelmingly likely that any claimant will be able to resolve their case without the need to go to court.

Notably, the agreement means all current and former members of the armed forces, who are represented by Hugh James, and have been affected by hearing loss as a result of their time in the military, can bring claims as long as their service included time following the passing of the Crown Proceedings (Armed Forces) Act 1987, which suspended Crown immunity for service personnel.

You can make a claim with our Military services team, or ring us here: 0808 5017 044

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Author bio

Simon Ellis


Simon Ellis is a Partner with Hugh James and has worked with the firm for more than 25 years, having trained and qualified here. Simon heads up the Military Department, advising and assisting current and former military personnel with various health conditions and injuries. He specialises in claims such as hearing loss, non-freezing cold injuries, compartment syndrome and military injury cases. He is often asked to advise on more unusual claims in the military context.

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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