An Afghanistan war veteran who contracted Q fever has won a landmark compensation claim against the Ministry of Defence that could pave the way for payouts to others.
Phillip Eaglesham, a former Royal Marine commando corporal, contracted the chronic condition two days before he was due to return home from a tour of duty in 2010.
He developed flu-like symptoms, fatigue and sweating, which developed into muscular weakness and he is now in a wheelchair.
Eaglesham, 35, who lives with his wife and children in Taunton, Somerset, is likely to receive a significant sum in damages, possibly more than £1m. He regularly requires care to help him with needs as basic as brushing his teeth.
Q fever, caused by the bacterium Coxiella burnetii, is spread when spores from animals are dispersed by the wind. It was first identified in Australia in the 1930s.
Eaglesham’s lawyers argued that the MoD should have known that the infection was present in southern Afghanistan and that it could have prevented it causing serious illness.
Treatment with doxycycline antibiotics are effective against Q fever, either as a preventative medication or if prescribed in the early stages of the condition. The US and French military were both using it in Afghanistan at the time, it was said.
A number of other armed forces members who contracted Q fever are understood to be preparing similar claims against the MoD.
Sue Bowler, a partner at the law firm Coffin Mew, which represented Eaglesham, said: “Phillip’s case against the Ministry of Defence has been pursued so that he can pay for the specialist care, equipment and housing that he will need for the rest of his life – and to help other military personnel who contracted the same illness in Afghanistan and are also pursuing claims.
“Phillip has gone from being a strong, fit Royal Marine to someone with very severe disability, all because of contracting Q fever. It has never been about the money for him, no amount could take away his suffering and that of his family.”
The high court ruled in Eaglesham’s favour after the MoD repeatedly failed to file a full defence and provide the court with copies of all documents relevant to the case despite being granted an additional 15 months to compile the materials.
Speaking after the judgment, Eaglesham told the BBC: “It would be amazing to have a family life again rather than my wife being my full-time carer.”
The veteran competed for Ireland at the Rio 2016 Paralympics and is campaigning for other servicemen and women who have fallen ill through Q fever.
An MoD spokesperson said: “We are studying the judgment and it would be inappropriate to comment further.”