The claimants sought damages from the defendant on the ground that they had sustained vibration white finger in the course of their employment with the defendant. The defendant had received more than 170,000 claims, of which 50,000 remained outstanding.

In view of the large number of actions the parties entered into negotiations to draw up a claims handling agreement (the “CHA”) to dispose of the many outstanding claims without each having to go before a court.

Entitlement to an award and its amount were to be assessed in accordance with the detailed terms of the CHA. The court adopted a supervisory role and a pattern had emerged whereby review hearings would be held by the court three times a year to enable the judge to review and supervise the progress of the litigation towards disposal. There were also ad hoc hearings to determine specific issues.

Some of the claims had stalled and in light of this the claimants asked the court to award interest on their claims.

The supervising judge held that he had no jurisdiction to make an order for payment of interest. His powers were limited to the construction and enforcement of the CHA. In essence as the procedure was not group litigation or indeed litigation but the carrying into effect of an agreement the judge held his powers were restricted. He did hold though that the adversely affected claimants’ remedy was breach of contract.

The claimants appealed challenging the source and extent of the supervising judge’s power and the extent of the judge’s powers to deal with claims allegedly stalled and whether they included a power to direct that interest be paid from the date of a claim.