Corby Toxic Poisoning Case – “The British Erin Brokovich”


The Claimants appearing on the Register of the Corby Group Litigation v Corby District Council EWHC 1944 (TCC).

The Corby toxic waste case was a court case decided by The Hon. Mr. Justice Akenhead at the High Court of Justice, London, on 29 July 2009. 

The judge found Corby Borough Council liable in negligence, public nuisance and a breach of statutory duty for its reclamation of a Corby Steelworks in the town of Corby, Northamptonshire, between 1985 and 1997.

Between 1984 and 1999 Corby Borough Council undertook the demolition, excavation and redevelopment of the site as part of a program of urban regeneration.

The landmark decision was historically significant as the first in the world to establish a link between atmospheric toxic waste and birth defects  (previous cases have involved water pollution)  and had implications for the way future reclamation programs should be conducted in terms of air pollution.

The case has been described as “the British Erin Brockovich”.

The families of 19 children who were born with deformities arising from the toxic dust displaced following the reclamation of a steelworks site in Corby brought a class action against  the council  and reached an  out-of-court settlement after an 11-year battle to prove that air borne toxic particles were responsible for causing birth defection in what became a ground breaking case. 

In a landmark high court ruling last July, Corby borough council was found negligent in its management of waste at the site during the 1980s and 1990s. The council had originally denied negligence or any link between  waste removal and birth deformity, such as the deformity of limbs many of the plaintiffs had  been born with. Children with even more extensive birth defects had even died, with one baby both with it’s internal organs having been deformed. 

The Council eventually agreed to drop its challenge and reached a final, binding agreement with the 19 youngsters. It continues to deny culpable  liability.  Chris Mallender, Chief Executive Officer of Corby Borough Council commenting on the case said: “We are obviously very disappointed and very surprised at the outcome of this trial.

Our position has always been that there was no link between the reclamation work that was carried out in Corby in past decades and these children’s birth defects. That is still our position.”

The solicitor who acted on behalf of all the families was Des Collins,  a senior partner of Collins solicitors, said that his clients had lived with a daily reminder of the sub-standard clean-up operation of the former British Steel plant . Mr Collins commenting on the settlement said “Of course, no financial sum can properly compensate for their lifelong deformities and disabilities,” he said, adding “However, they are relieved that their long battle is now over. Today’s agreement recognises the many years of emotional and physical suffering the 19 families have endured and will continue to endure”

A joint statement by the council and Collins said that financial terms of settlement remained confidential and would require approval by the court in the case of the younger children. Lawyers for the families have previously said it was unlikely that any compensation claim would be for less than £100,000.

The case originally came to light after 3 families had been approached by journalist Graham Hind from the Sunday Times who discovered three children from families living in close proximity to each other had suffered deformity and a possible similarity to the famous Thalidomide case in the 60s.

Please Click on Image Above for BBC Horizon Episode “Toxic Town – the Poisoning of Corby

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