Unity Law, the specialist illness and disability discrimination firm, is looking to break new legal ground with a case involving a professional viola player who says his hearing was ruined by rehearsals at the Royal Opera House.
The BBC has reported that Chris Goldscheider is claiming that his hearing was irreversibly damaged by brass instruments put immediately behind him during rehearsals of Die Walkure by Richard Wagner at the famous venue in 2012.
It is thought that the sound during practise peaked at around 137 decibels, which is equivalent to the output of a jet engine. The Royal Opera House does not accept the rehearsal noise caused Goldscheider’s injury, and denies responsibility.
Chris Fry, the founder of Unity Law, said that part of the Royal Opera House’s defence treads on new legal ground.
“Essentially what is being said is that the beautiful artistic output justifies damaging the hearing of the musicians performing it,” he said.
“That’s never been tested by the courts. We don’t think the court is likely to uphold that, in particular where it’s clear steps could be taken to maintain the beautiful sound and protect hearing at the same time.”
Goldscheider says that the hearing damage has had a severe impact on his life. Not only has he lost his career, but ordinary tasks have become difficult for him. At one point following the injury, the sound of his baby daughter crying gave him noise-induced vertigo and caused him to be ill in bed for three weeks.
The Royal Opera House told the BBC that Goldscheider’s compensation claim was “a complex medico-legal issue, which has been going on for some time and is still under investigation”.
“All sides are keen to reach a resolution,” it said.