Families of British soldiers killed fighting in Iraq can bring damages claims against the Government, the Supreme Court ruled.
Relatives, including those of several Midland soldiers, want to sue for negligence and to make claims under human rights legislation.
Supreme Court justices announced that they can do both. Families started legal action as a result of the deaths of a number of British soldiers following the American-led invasion of Iraq in 2003.
Their victory at the UK’s highest court follows a hearing in London in February.
The decision means that claims can now proceed to trial.
Lawyers representing relatives say Corporal Stephen Allbutt, 35, of Sneyd Green, Stoke-on-Trent was killed in a “friendly fire” incident in March 2003.
He died after a Challenger 2 tank was hit by another Challenger 2 tank. Trooper David Clarke, 19, of Littleworth, Staffordshire, also died during the incident.
Private Phillip Hewett, 21, of Tamworth, died in July 2005 after a lightly armoured Snatch Land Rover was blown up.
Pte Hewett’s mother, Sue Smith, 51, of Tamworth, Staffordshire, said: “They can no longer treat soldiers as sub-human with no rights. It’s been a long fight but it’s absolutely brilliant. Now serving soldiers have got human rights. What we have done here will make a difference to a lot of people.”
Relatives claim the Ministry of Defence (MoD) failed to provide armoured vehicles or equipment which could have saved lives, and should pay compensation.
The MoD says decisions about battlefield equipment are for politicians and military commanders.
Shubhaa Srinivasan, from law firm Leigh Day, who represents all the Challenger claimants, said: “We are extremely pleased with the decision.
“The highest court in the land has now ruled the MoD, as employer, must accept that it owes a duty of care to properly equip service personnel who go to war.
“We have constantly argued that the MoD’s position is morally and legally indefensible.
“The claimants’ claims have always been about decisions taken on provision of adequate equipment and training to British troops which are far removed from the battlefield.
“It seems incredible that it was often left up to soldiers themselves to buy this equipment as they felt compelled.”
“We argue that morale can only be improved if the Army accepts this duty of care and does everything in its formidable powers to reduce the risks for service personnel on the battlefield.”
Defence Secretary Philip Hammond said his thoughts were with the injured soldiers and the families of those who had lost their lives, but added: “I am very concerned at the wider implications of this judgment.”