Call to strike out army's defence of chemicals exposure case

Call to strike out army's defence of chemicals exposure case
Gavin Tobin: Seeking documents since 2013.Picture: Larry Cummins

The High Court is to be asked to strike out the Defence Forces' defence of a legal action against it by a former technician.

The October 13 hearing has been scheduled because the Defence Forces haven’t complied with a Supreme Court order in 2019 to hand over documents Gavin Tobin has been seeking since 2013.

In May, the Irish Examiner reported how the Defence Forces claimed they could not give a signed affidavit to the former Air Corps technician because of Covid-19 physical distancing rules.

This was despite the fact that Defence Forces lawyers were last ordered to provide the affidavit more than eight months before the first case of the virus was found in Ireland.

A Supreme Court order was made on July 15, 2019 in favour of Mr Tobin, who is suing the State over his alleged exposure to deadly chemicals on dates during the 1990s.

The army was first ordered by the High Court to provide the information to Mr Tobin’s legal team in 2016, after they declined to give him the information when he first asked for it in 2013.

The information requested is part of the so-called “discovery process” in a court action, where legal teams seek to discover documents they need to pursue their action.

Mr Tobin alleges he was, on one occasion during the 1990s, subject to “tubbing” — doused with chemicals by other Air Corps personnel.

He is among several former mechanics who are suing over alleged exposure to dangerous chemicals and solvents during their employment.

State bodies decline to answer 

The Defence Forces, the Department of Defence and the State Claims Agency declined to answer any questions put to it by the Irish Examiner.

They were all asked, for example, if there was any reason why the State Solicitor's Office cannot arrange for one person to stand two meters away from the other, and just sign the necessary documents, and slide them back to the other person?

They were also all asked if there was any other reason why the Department of Defence cannot comply with last year's Supreme Court decision?

In reply, the Department of Defence said: “Responsibility for personal injuries claims taken against the Minister for Defence is delegated to the State Claims Agency.

“It would be inappropriate for the Minister to comment on individual cases.”

The State Claims agency said: “It would be inappropriate for the State Claims Agency to comment on any individual case that is currently before the courts.”

Mr Tobin said: “The Defence Forces seem to think I will just give up.

“I have no intention of giving up.

“I’ll apply to have their defence thrown out, they’ll probably challenge it on the day or appeal it if it goes against them.

“That’ll probably tie the process up for another few years.

“Then there will probably be some other legal move, and they’ll probably drag that out as well.

“Meanwhile witnesses against them will die and as every year passes, some new delay will happen but I will never give up."

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