Thalidomide victims seeking payout

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%VIRTUAL-SkimlinksPromo%Thalidomide victims have mounted a new bid for compensation from the drug's manufacturer and distributor more than 50 years after they were born deformed.

Papers have been filed at the High Court on behalf of eight people whose mothers took the anti-morning sickness drug when pregnant in the late 1950s and early 1960s, law firm Slater & Gordon said.
They are seeking compensation from the drug's German maker Grunenthal and Diageo, which now owns the drug's UK distributor, Distillers Co (Biochemicals).

Lorry driver Brian Davies, 53, from Gwynedd, Wales, who was left with deformed feet, is one of those seeking compensation, having been refused under a 1970s plan because his arms were not affected.

The father-of-two said: "It's a disgrace that so many people have been denied justice in this way.

"In my eyes it was simply the drug companies looking to save money and ignoring the duty of care they have to people whose lives they have ruined.

"Ever since I was a child I have missed out on everyday pleasures, like playing football with friends or swimming, things other people take for granted.

"Everyday I am in pain and every day is a struggle. I hope that now we finally get the justice that we have been demanding for so many years."

Between 1958 and 1961 the drug Thalidomide was used by expectant mothers to control symptoms of morning sickness.

It was originally prescribed as a "wonder drug'' for morning sickness, headaches, coughs, insomnia and colds.

Thalidomide babies often suffered missing or deformed limbs and extreme shortening of arms and legs, but the drug also caused malformations of the eyes and ears, genitals, heart, kidneys and digestive tract.

By the time safety fears led to it being pulled from sale thousands of babies worldwide had been affected.

According to survivors' charity Thalidomide UK there are still 455 victims in the UK but it is estimated around 40% of victims died before their first birthday.

In 2012 Grunenthal apologised for the drug for the first time, with chief executive Harald Stock saying "we have been silent and we are very sorry for that".

Last year Diageo paid 89 million Australian dollars (£49 million) to just over 100 further Australians damaged by the drug, in a deal which led to a claim against Grunenthal being discontinued.

Slater & Gordon lawyer Fraser Whitehead said: "Grunenthal and Distillers have always claimed that the thalidomide disaster was an unavoidable tragedy and that they did everything expected of drug
companies at the time. Our research has demonstrated that is nonsense.

"Both companies knew their drug was causing severe nerve damage and both were explicitly warned of the possibility thalidomide might cause severe malformations. Yet the drug was left on the market for many months afterwards.

"It is time those responsible are finally held to account for the mistakes of the past. Grunenthal, in particular, has done little make good the immense damage that it has done and it has to accept responsibility for those affected in the UK."

A Grunenthal spokesman said: "Grunenthal confirms that the company received an email from Slater & Gordon today, announcing that they have been instructed to bring proceedings on behalf of eight claimants.

"Grunenthal has not seen the claims to which they refer and is, therefore, not in a position to comment further."

10 consumer rights you should know
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Thalidomide victims seeking payout

The law states that any goods you buy from a UK retailer should be of satisfactory quality, as described, fit for purpose and last a reasonable amount of time.

This applies even if you buy items in a sale or with a discount voucher. You may have to insist on these rights being respected, though.

Useful phrases to use when you want to show you mean business include, "according to the Sale of Goods Act 1979" and, if it's a service, "according to the Supply of Goods and Services Act 1982".

Some shops will allow you to exchange goods without a receipt, but they can refuse to should they wish.

If the goods are faulty, however, another proof of purchase such as a bank statement should work just as well.

If you attempt to return goods within four weeks of the purchase, your chances of getting a full refund are much higher as you can argue that you have not "accepted" them.

After this point, you can only really expect an exchange, repair or part-refund.

The updated Consumer Credit Act states that card companies are jointly and severally liable for credit card purchases of between £100 and £60,260 (whether or not you paid just a deposit or the whole amount on your card).

Anyone spending between these amounts on their credit card is therefore protected if the retailer or service provider goes bust, their online shopping never arrives or the items in question are faulty or not as described.

Start by writing to the agency asking it to either remove or change the entry that you think is wrong. It will investigate the matter and find out whether you have been the victim of ID theft or a bank's mistake.

Within 28 days from receipt of your letter the agency should tell you how the bank has responded. If the bank agrees to change the entry, they will authorise the agency to update their records. They should also send updates to any other credit reference agencies they use.

You can also contact your lender directly to query a mistake. If the lender agrees to the discrepancy, ask them to confirm this in writing on their letterhead and send a copy to the agency, asking them to update your file.

The FOS settles disputes between financial companies such as banks and consumers.

If a financial organisation rejects a complaint you make about its services, you can therefore escalate that complaint to the FOS - as long as you have given the company in question at least eight weeks to respond.

The FOS will then investigate the case, and could force the company to offer you compensation should it see fit.

Bailiffs are allowed to take some of your belongings to sell on to cover certain debts, including unpaid Council Tax and parking fines.

They can, for example, take so-called luxury items such as TVs or games consoles. However, they cannot take essentials such as fridges or clothes.

What's more, they can only generally enter your home to take your stuff if you leave a door or window open or invite them in.

You are therefore within your rights to refuse them access and to ask for related documents such as proof of their identity. If they try to force their way in, you can also call the police to stop them.

Private sector debt collectors do not have the same powers as bailiffs, whatever they tell you.

They cannot, for example, enter your home and take your possessions in lieu of payment.

In fact, they can only write, phone, or visit your home to talk to you about paying back the debt. As with bailiffs, you can also call the police if you feel physically threatened.

Thanks to the Distance Selling Regulations, you actually have more rights buying online or by phone than on the High Street.

You can, for example, send most goods back within a week, for a full refund (including outward delivery costs), even if there's no fault.

You will usually need to pay for the return delivery, though. The seller must then refund you within 30 days.

We enter into contracts all the time, whether it be to join a gym, switch energy supplier or take out a loan.

In most cases, once you've signed a contract, you are legally bound by it. In some situations, however, you have the right to cancel it within a certain timeframe.

Credit agreements, for example, can be cancelled within 14 days. And online retailers must tell you about your cancellation rights for any contract made up to stand up legally.


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