John Mullen | Thompsons Trade Union Law
John Mullen is a highly experienced lawyer who plays a key part in managing the performance of Thompsons Solicitors’ personal injury team in the Midlands. John is based in the firm's Birmingham office, which covers the Birmingham, Nottingham and Stoke areas.
After graduating with a law degree from the University of Northumbria, Newcastle-Upon-Tyne, he attended Chester College of Law. After passing the Law Society final exams he started a training contract with a major litigation firm in 1986 and became a fully-fledged solicitor in April 1988. He worked with two established litigation firms before joining trade union firm Rowley Ashworth in 1995. This firm subsequently merged with Thompsons Solicitors in 2009 so effectively John has been with Thompsons for just under 23 years, working in the field of personal injury claims.
John has always worked as a team or office manager but he has coupled this with running a full personal injury caseload. The cases were made up of a wide range of claims under the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health (COSHH) regulations; high value “multi-track” accidents (carrying compensation between £25,000 and £500,000); “manual handling” litigation, where an injury has been caused by carrying or moving objects at work and cases where deafness or vibration injuries to hands or arms have been sustained in the workplace.
John’s clients have also suffered respiratory, skin and multiple orthopaedic injuries. Some have lost their sight, others are victims of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). John has also represented the families of people who have died as a result of serious injuries or diseases.
John describes Thompsons as “totally unique” because no competitor rivals the firm’s focus on protecting the injured and vulnerable in the workplace (from both a personal injury claim perspective and in terms of employment rights). He is also active in his local constituency Labour Party.
He previously played a good deal of football and cricket and now enjoys cycling and walking in Southern Mediterranean countries.
JOHN’S CASE EXPERIENCE
Industrial disease claim: John pursued the case of Wayne Coxall v Goodyear. Unite member Mr Coxall became asthmatic after working as a paint and line operator in the Goodyear tyre factory in Wolverhampton. At first instance Thompsons secured a judgment of £7,500 for aggravation to an underlying respiratory condition. However, the employer appealed, arguing under Withers v Perry Chain Co Ltd that an employer was not under a duty to dismiss an employee from work which could not be safely undertaken merely because of a susceptibility on the employee’s part, which in turn exposed him to a risk of harm.
During the course of the case Thompsons Solicitors produced evidence to the effect that the works doctor, line manager and health and safety manager all took the view that the claimant should cease work and they all regarded the matter as being their employer’s responsibility.
The defendants were attempting to shift “blame” to the employee himself and suggested that he should simply have left work rather than being protected by his employer. The employers’ appeal went to the Court of Appeal where they pursued the argument that the employer was not under a duty to dismiss pursuant to the Withers case. However, the Court of Appeal distinguished the Coxall case from Withers on the basis that the individual facts of the Coxall case were such that the failure on the employers’ part to dismiss the employee amounted to a breach of the employers’ duty and the decision at first instance was upheld. In this case Mr Coxall was exposed to fumes given off by lubricant paint used to coat the inside of tyres which he was not protected against.
The case was widely reported, including in the Solicitors Journal, the Law Society Gazette and many of the other leading legal journals. The case remains good law today in terms of it being a case which can be distinguished from the principle in Withers.
Industrial disease claim: John was involved in group litigation (concluded in 2017) on behalf of 45 Unite and Unison Severn Trent Water employees who were exposed to noxious and harmful Hydrogen Sulphide during the course of their duties as sewage treatment plant workers. Total damages recovered for the group was in the region of £350,000.
Industrial disease claim: John acted for six claimants (five members of the Unite the union and one private client) in litigation against Aston Martin Lagonda Limited, in claims for occupational dermatitis where he secured compensation totalling just over £300,000. In each case the exposure was to Betamate glue which is used to connect car parts to each other. The company had failed to provide adequate personal protective equipment (PPE) and failed to assess the risks to which they were exposed. The cases were all settled just before trial, highlighting the advantage that can be secured through proactive litigating.
John is a member of the Law Society panel.
Unite member, Dianne Buxton, who sustained multiple injuries to both legs, said: “I would just like to say that at a very low point in my life following a life-changing accident in my place of work, Mr Mullen and his team carried out their duties in a most professional way. They made me feel at ease throughout the case, always friendly and helpful when I needed answers, they took me through highs and lows, always giving me confidence. The final settlement that they achieved for me was above all my expectations and it has given me a more secure financial future.
"I cannot thank them enough and would always recommend them to anyone unfortunate enough to find themselves in the same position that I was in.”
John also won substantial compensation for a Musicians Union member, Melinda Maxwell, who suffered serious lower leg fractures and significant scarring to the leg. Melinda said: “I broke my right leg on January 1st 2014 while working with the National Youth Orchestra. I fell off a stage during rehearsal in a space that was badly lit, cramped and with insufficient indications of the stage area. In the end I needed two operations, the second of which was traumatic. I was helped by two of Thompsons' solicitors, initially Martin Singh, followed by John Mullen. The whole process of unpicking events was very thorough and I felt supported and in safe hands and I thank Thompsons for their expertise and professionalism.”