A HUDDERSFIELD diver injured in a Middle East oilfield could find his compensation claim determined by Shari’ah law.
The success of million-pound compensation claims brought by Andrew Iles and two other commercial divers exposed to toxic chemicals in Saudi Arabia may depend on the finer points of the 1,400-year-old law.
Mr Iles, of Tithefields, Fenay Bridge, was injured along with Stephen Harley, of Devon, and Michael Hopley, of Crewe, Cheshire, while they were diving from a vessel in an oil field off the Middle Eastern kingdom in May 2003.
The trio were exposed to the toxins while working in waters into which hazardous chemicals had been discharged, their lawyers say.
Now the three veteran divers, who have not dived since the incident, are engaged in a test case struggle for compensation from Khalifa A Algosaibi Diving and Marine Services (Kadams) for whom they were working at the time.
The toxic exposure is said to have occurred while the three men and Kadams were working on a marine project with the Saudi national oil company, Aramco.
All three needed protracted hospital treatment and have been physically and psychologically marked by their ordeal. Their compensation claims are estimated at up to £1m.
Now, in a unique test case at London’s Civil Appeal Court, Kadams’ lawyers are arguing that the trio's claims fall foul of a strict 12-month time limit imposed by Saudi law on labour-related compensation claims and must be dismissed.
However the three men’s legal team insists their cases are not “out of time” and should be allowed to proceed. They maintain the claims fall under the auspices of Shari’ah law – the 1,400 year-old Muslim law code, which does not impose such strict court deadlines.
In January, High Court judge, Mr Justice Foskett, gave the three divers the go ahead to press on with their cases against Kadams, dismissing arguments that they had left it too late to sue.
But Kadams’ QC, Stephen Cogley, argued on appeal that, within two months of the accident, the three men had consulted lawyers in the UK, giving them ample time to launch a damages claim within the 12-month time limit.
Instead, it was not until May 2006 that the three men “commenced proceedings”, he told the court.
Recognising the importance of the case to the three men, and others injured abroad, Lords Justice Potter and Rimer and Sir John Chadwick reserved their ruling in the case until an unspecified later date.