Mother of UK’s first air pollution death brings £290,000 High Court claim against Government

Ella and her mother Rosmund
Ella and her mother Rosmund Pic: Rosamund Adoo Kissi-Debrah

The mother of the UK’s first person to have air pollution cited on their death certificate is bringing a High Court claim, worth more than £290,000, against the Government.

A lawyer for Rosamund Adoo-Kissi-Debrah, the mother of Ella, a nine-year-old girl who who died from a chronic asthma attack in 2013, said the case was “no ordinary personal injury claim” and had broader significance.

In a preliminary hearing held in London on January 25, the lawyer, Ravi Mehta, also said the aim of the claim was not solely about compensation but about seeking “vindication for the death of Ella” and establishing the “right to clean air” under the Human Rights Act.

The Government, represented by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, the Department for Transport, and the Department of Health and Social Care, is disputing the claim. They deny any breach of human rights and argue that even if such a breach occurred, it would not have caused Ella’s injuries and death.

Colin Thomann, representing the Government, stated that the claim was disputed in its entirety and argued that the estimated damages significantly exceeded the claim’s potential value.

While Adoo-Kissi-Debrah’s lawyers estimated the claim to be worth £293,156, the government considered the maximum value to be £30,000 if successful.

If Ella’s family win, this landmark case could establish the “right to clean air” under the Human Rights Act, setting a precedent for future claims related to the adverse health effects of air pollution.

‘The dangers of air pollution’

The mother of a nine-year-old girl has said people still do not understand the dangers of air pollution.

Ella lived just 25 metres from the South Circular Road in south-east London, and the coroner of an inquest into her death concluded that the excessive air pollution in the area had triggered her fatal asthma attack. The levels of nitrogen dioxide near her home were found to have exceeded the World Health Organization and the European Union guidelines.

The inquest revealed Ella had multiple seizures and was admitted to the hospital 27 times in the three years leading up to her death.

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