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pounds 20M PAYOUT FOR THE POISON SETTEE VICTIMS; 1,650 win compensation.

Byline: ANDREW GREGORY

HUNDREDS of victims who suffered skin burns after buying "toxic" sofas are set to receive up to pounds 20million compensation.

A number of high street chains have been ordered to pay out between pounds 1,175 and pounds 9,000 to around 1,650 customers.

It follows a flood of complaints that the Chinese-made settees caused chemical burns from harmful anti-fungal agents used in their manufacture.

The group which owns Argos and Homebase, furniture chain Walmsleys and other smaller firms have already admitted liability.

Some Land of Leather customers will not get a payout, following an earlier ruling after the firm went into administration.

Solicitor Richard Langton, of law firm Russe l l Jones and JWalker, said: "People's lives were put on hold. Some people thought that they were dying, others that they had skin cancer.

"Their doctors couldn't tell them what was wrong.

"Fortunately, some cases were not so severe, but many say it was the worst period of their lives."

The pounds 20million figure includes legal costs, as well as compensation.

Up to 100,000 sofas were sold, containing the "highly sensitising" fungicidal chemical dimethyl fumarate (DMF). The substance was designed to stop the furniture, made by Oriental firms Linkwise and Eurosofa, going mouldy in storage.

But when the sofas went into people's homes, the solid sachets turned into gas that burned through clothes and on to skin.

Customers reported severe skin or eye complaints, breathing difficulties and other medical conditions.

EU chiefs have now banned DMF after similar incidents in five European countries.

Yesterday, a High Court judge heard that a deal has been hammered out by lawyers which should pave the way for "swift" payouts.

Mr Justice MacDuff was told that the agreement did not resolve the whole of the litigation, but would lead to a settlement "for many hundreds". Legal action is still pending over another 3,000 cases in what is believed to be the UK's largest consumer group litigatation. Mr Langton, who led the group action against the retailers, said after the hearing: "Many people suffered serious health problems, simply because of the new sofa they chose.

"At the start, there was a real fear factor as nobody knew the cause. Doctors took nine months to identify the chemical.

"We believe many sofas are still in use with DMF in them. We would advise anyone who develops symptoms to seek urgent medical advice.

"And anyone who has not yet registered a claim should seek help immediately as time is running out."

CASE STUDY

My boy came out in blisters

By ANDREW GREGORY

THIS is little Archie Lloyd-Bennett - a nine-month-old baby who was burned by one of the "toxic" sofas.

His body was covered in blisters after lying on the pounds 650 settee his mum Rebecca bought from a Land of Leather store in Solihull, Birmingham.

She took him to Birmingham children's hospital where he was given lotions, creams and pills to treat the burns.

Student Rebecca, 27, said: "He was red raw after lying on the sofa in his nappy.

"He has been in agony. One night I found him with blood all over his face because he had been scratching himself in his sleep."

Even the family's dog fell seriously ill after breaking out in sores.

Happily, both Archie and the dog are now both fully recovered.

But A-level student Rebecca, 27, is furious after being told she won't get a penny in compensation because Land of Leather, now in administration, breached insurance conditions.

She said: "It's a scandal. I'm annoyed companies can cause damage and get off scot free. Rebecca is one of around 350 customers who are appealing against the the ruling.

CAPTION(S):

RECOVERED With Rebecca CHINESE BURN One of "danger" sofas
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Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Date:Apr 27, 2010
Words:626
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