By Stefan Puttnam
The findings following an inquiry into the outbreak, which highlighted that E.coli was found on railings and soiled footwear as well as in the droppings of 23 out of the 28 animals in the large petting barn, have been widely reported. In brief the report has made 43 recommendations including drawing up a code of practice for Petting Farms and introducing a registration system. It did stop short of calling for a ban on the touching of animals.
But what does this mean for those that were infected? It has been reported that a total of 93 people were infected of which 76 were under the age of 10. 17 developed serious complications and 8 needed kidney dialysis. Some have been left with permanent damage to their kidneys and may need a transplant in the future.
Following the news that the Petting Farm will not be contesting liability, one newspaper² stated that there are "27 children set to receive what may amount to millions in compensation", and another newspaper³ included a quotation from a Partner of a law firm representing 27 children and 1 adult which states "we just wanted to make sure that these families will have the financial support that will allow them to live their lives as best as they can."
How much Public Liability insurance coverage does the defendant purchase?
If we make an assumption that it is £2, 000, 000 and all 93 victims make successful claims, simple mathematics tells us that the average payment for each victim will be £21, 500. Not a lot for potentially a lifetime of health problems.
It has already been reported that 76 of the victims are under the age of 10 therefore it may be many years, as they develop into adults, before the full extent of any future medical problems will be known. And what about the law firms representing the victims who "just wanted to make sure that these families will have the financial support that will allow them to live their lives as best as they can"? When legal costs can account for as much as 50% of the total claim settlement, I wonder how much the law firm will contribute towards ensuring the financial security of their clients.
Liability may well have been admitted in this case but there is still a matter of ensuring that the victims are compensated adequately. We shall watch this space.