Parents hopeful in compensation bid

THE parents of a boy born without eyes are pinning their hopes for compensation on a hearing due to take place in America within the next six weeks.Chris and Maggie Bourne's son Andrew, 18, has anopthalmia, a rare condition where a baby is born without eyes.

By Sharon Asplin

THE parents of a boy born without eyes are pinning their hopes for compensation on a hearing due to take place in America within the next six weeks.

Chris and Maggie Bourne's son Andrew, 18, has anopthalmia, a rare condition where a baby is born without eyes.

The couple, of Skyrmans Fee, Frinton, are among a group of parents who claim the mother's exposure to the garden spray Benlate, manufactured by US chemical company DuPont, had caused the birth defect in their children.

Norfolk couple Marty and Trudi Griffin will head to Philadelphia for May 9 and expect to be there for up to five weeks while they give evidence about their own son's condition.

The Griffins, of Ingoldisthorpe near King's Lynn, are suing DuPont after Darren, now nine, was born with an under-developed eye.

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They also believe it was caused by his mother's exposure to the agricultural fungicide Benlate during the early weeks of her pregnancy.

The two couples have become friends since they realised they had a common goal and Mr Bourne said he and his wife were anxious the Griffins would win their case, paving the way for their own claim.

He said: "We have been waiting 11 years for this and it seems within our grasp. Our hopes rest on the outcome of this and we will definitely be keeping our fingers crossed for the Griffins."

Andrew is now in his second year of a life skills course at the Royal National Institute for the Blind college in Redhill, Surrey, designed to try to make him as independent as possible.

In October 2003, a Florida Supreme Court decision ruled the chemical - a popular fungicide used on farms and gardens - caused a boy to be born with empty eye sockets. It ordered the company to pay £3.8million in that case, opening the doors for British victims to seek compensation.

The Bournes and the Griffins are among 30 families jointly taking action against DuPont. Over the years, the Bournes have suffered a number of setbacks to their bid for compensation and the US court decision follows years of legal wrangles between complainants.

Mrs Griffin said her son had no vision in his affected eye and wore a contact lens painted with a pupil for cosmetic purposes and to maintain the structure of his eye socket.

She said: "We are doing this for our own son and to make people aware of the risks - even today this pesticide is still stored in some garden sheds. We need this compensation because in 10 or 20 years' time there could be a cure for blindness and if an operation becomes available we would be able to pay for it. We just live on the hope he will be able to see again and at least we will be able to say we tried."

DuPont halted Benlate production in 2001 after 32 years. DuPont has always denied Benlate caused birth defects and last night staff at its UK offices in Stevenage declined to comment on the case.

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