Judge awards interim payment of £1.6m for legal bill of mothers exposed to poisonous waste

Corby council could be forced to pay up to £4m in costs on behalf of the families of young people born with birth defects following reclamation works, a judge ruled today.

Mr Justice Akenhead said a reasonable amount for an interim payment would be £1.6m, but lawyers said it was likely the amount would exceed this, and could reach the full £4m the claimants had pushed for.

The judge will make a further ruling on damages owed to the families.

The case centered around a group of mothers, who launched the case on behalf of their children. They had lived in Corby or visited the town while pregnant when the reclamation work of the former steelworks was being carried out. They later gave birth to children with birth defects such as undeveloped fingers and clubbed feet.

The mothers' claimed against the council, which had taken on the job of the reclamation process, on the grounds of negligence, breach of statutory duty, and public nuisance. They said the land reclamation programme and the presence of poisonous waste presented a significant health risk.

The council had denied any exposure to the claimant's mothers of harmful materials capable of causing injuries, and denied it was reasonably foreseeable that the claimants' mothers could have been exposed to substances that could harm them or their unborn children.

But the judge presiding over the trial, which lasted more than three months, ruled that reclamation works were capable of leading to some, or all of, the birth defects displayed in the 17 children.

Commenting on the announcement, Rupert Choat, partner at CMS Cameron McKenna, described the possible £4m as “quite a sizable amount, given the nature of the case.”