COWLEY, UK–Former workers at the Cowley car plant in an industrial area of Oxfordshire, England, have been awarded more than 15 million British pounds (over $23 million US) in insurance payouts in compensation for damage to their ears suffered during decades of work in the noisy, 100-year-old factory.
Most of the claims have been brought against BMW Group, the German auto maker that now owns the plant. When BMW acquired the property, it inherited the liabilities of previous owners, which included British Motor Corporation, British Leyland, and Pressed Steel. The plant is now the central assembly facility for the Mini, a brand of small cars started by British Motor Corporation and acquired by BMW in 1994.
According to Peter Lodge, an industrial disease solicitor who has represented some of the claimants, most of those who suffered deafness and tinnitus from their exposure to noise at the Cowley plant worked there from the 1960s until about 2000.
In an interview with the Oxford Mail, a local newspaper, Lodge estimated that about 25,000 people were employed at the plant during the years when conditions were a problem. He added that many of the people whose ears were damaged from noise exposure probably don’t know the cause and may attribute the symptoms to old age.
Rebecca Baxter, a BMW spokesperson, said, “BMW Group is keen to be as helpful as possible to former workers who were employed by previous owners of the site and believe they have a claim. The company is doing as much as it can to get claimants in contact with the correct historical insurer quickly.”