3rd April 2017
HHJ Main QC accepted evidence of a scientific link between trauma and fibromyalgia. Marcus Grant instructed by Lindsay Ryan of Brian Barr Solicitors, represented a 54 year old civil servant who was involved in a lift accident.
She suffered pain and shock following the incident during which she though she would die. Within weeks she developed widespread pain affecting all four quadrants of her body accompanied by headaches and cognitive impairment. Her cluster of symptoms was diagnosed by her treating clinicians as fibromyalgia and PTSD. The Defendant rejected any suggestion that she had suffered more than a short lived soft tissue injury and that her presentation was either pathological or fabricated or both. They advanced a differential explanation of somatic symptom disorder (via its psychiatrist) and pre-existing constitutional fibromyalgia (via its rheumatologist).
Fibromyalgia is a chronic pain condition that affects many members of the population. It is a rheumatological condition that is poorly understood. Many insurers have contended for many years that there is no such thing as ‘post traumatic fibromyalgia’, and that this pain condition merely reflects a constitutional susceptibility in the patient, and that any temporal coincidence with a (compensable) trauma is merely coincidental. The industry has placed great reliance on a 2014 academic paper by Wolfe, Hauser et al ‘Fibromyalgia and physical trauma’ Journal of Rheumatology 12.08.14 to refute the notion of ‘post traumatic fibromyalgia’.
HHJ Main QC set aside the time during this 5 day trial to address the medicine thoroughly, and to test the medical literature underpinning the Claimant’s contention that disturbance of her REM sleep cycle over a prolonged period was the trigger for the fibromyalgia; she attributed the sleep disturbance to the PTSD pathology and soft tissue pain caused by the accident and, consequently, attributable to the accident. The Court accepted that scientific link (see § 79 and 144 i & j of the judgment) and found that the accident was the material trigger of the fibromyalgia. However, due to constitutional vulnerability to developing a similar pain disorder in any event, that included a history of childhood abuse, the Court found that within 6 years of the accident the Claimant probably would have succumbed to a similar set of symptoms. It awarded her £205,811.27 by way of damages inclusive of interest.
The Court rejected a full frontal attack on the Claimant’s credibility by way of surveillance evidence and ancillary allegations of fraud. It reviewed in some detail the rules on pleading fraud relying in particular on the guidance of the House of Lords in Three Rivers v. Bank of England  2 AC 1@ 291 and found that the pleadings in this case, whilst pleading fraud clearly, were ‘seriously defective’ (§107) because they failed to plead with sufficient specificity the primary facts from which an inference of fraud could be drawn, save with regard to the Claimant’s self report of previous accidents.
A copy of the judgment can be viewed here.