Man receives compensation for ‘toxic sofa’ burns

Pensioner hospitalised after buying contaminated leather sofa

A pensioner has been the first of many who will receive compensation for injuries from a ‘toxic sofa.’ The imported Chinese leather sofa gave Maurice Heminsley chemical burns whose seriousness required treatment in hospital.

68-year-old Mr Heminsley received a four-figure sum as compensation for the rash across his neck, back and legs, and desperately painful weeping sores which developed after he bought the sofa in November 2007. By February, the pensioner had been admitted to hospital in the West Midlands with acute contact dermatitis.

The sofa came from the supplier Furniture Warehouse, and had been contaminated by the dehumidifier dimethyl fumarate (DMF), a toxic fungicide now banned in the EU. It’s estimated that thousands more people will claim for injuries sustained from leather goods packed with DMF.

‘Shocking’ injuries

“It was like someone had thrown scalding hot water over him,” said his sister, 60-year-old Joyce Barham, who was “in shock” when she saw Mr Heminsley’s injuries (The Telegraph, 2009).

British shops including Argos and Land of Leather sold thousands of the contaminated sofas from 2007-2008. Furniture Warehouse did not contest their liability for the burns suffered by Mr Heminsley, and paid out an undisclosed sum to compensate for the injuries.

May 2009 saw the European Commission banning all products packed with DMF on the market, with Trading Standards responsible for recalling the contaminated products. Mr Heminsley’s solicitors advised that claims against the sofa company from larger retailers would speed up and facilitate compensation for many customers making similar claims.

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