Settlement for work accident at the South Pole | Fieldfisher
Skip to main content
Case Study

Settlement for work accident at the South Pole

Andrew Morgan has secured settlement for a UK citizen who was seriously injured in a work accident at the South Pole.

Michael Langton was employed by Raytheon Polar Services (NZ) Limited as an engineer on a summer contract at the South Pole. He was injured when a ball bearing valve assembly failed.

The ball bearing shot out under pressure striking Michael's right hand causing immediate blood loss and trauma to his right arm. He was evacuated by emergency flight to Christchurch, New Zealand, for treatment. He was told that amputation was a real risk.

Luckily, his arm was saved after emergency surgery in which he received 70 stitches.

The injury prevented Michael working as a heavy engineer for about two years, so he and his family suffered a loss of income. Because of his injury Michael could not continue working at the South Pole and so returned to Switzerland where he was domiciled with his wife and son. He contacted Andrew Morgan for advice and made a claim.

The employer's insurers were based in Scotland and they instructed solicitors in London to handle the claim. They refused to pay any compensation for Michael's life threatening injuries on the basis that, because he entered employment in New Zealand, Michael was covered by New Zealand's "no fault" compensation arrangements, known as the "ACC", so that he was not entitled to any compensation.

Andrew advised Michael that because he was not a New Zealand citizen, and because the accident did not happen in New Zealand, he was not covered by the scheme and was not entitled to make a claim.

However, there is no court which is universally recognised as having jurisdiction to deal with negligence claims arising at the South Pole. Instead Andrew pursued a claim in New Zealand for breach of Michael's employment contract.

Michael won the argument that he was not covered by the ACC scheme and was entitled to make a claim.

Andrew then negotiated a final settlement with Raytheon for an undisclosed amount of compensation for Michael.

Andrew Morgan says:

"Even at the best of times Antarctica is an inhospitable environment within which to live and work. Workers face isolation and access to emergency medical services cannot be guaranteed.

"It is a fundamental right that people who are injured at work are entitled to financial redress and support, either through compensation awarded by the courts or through a statutory alternative.

"The particular injustice faced by Mr Langton was that because he was a UK citizen he did not have access to the long term benefits of the ACC scheme but Raytheon denied that he was entitled to be awarded compensation through the courts either. Happily he was successful in challenging his employer".

Raytheon employs up to 600 people at the South Polar Base during the summer months in addition to hundreds of other staff at the McMurdo and Palmer Bases, operating at temperatures as low as minus 80°c in the winter months.

Contact us

For further information about work accident claims and personal injury claims, please call Andrew Morgan on 0330 460 6737 or email


All enquiries are completely free of charge and we will investigate all funding options for you including no win no fee.