Workplace Solicitor News
Posted: May 19th, 2017
Former servicemen have made claims against the Casement Airbase due to extensive exposure to toxic chemicals at the facility, and the associated damage to their-and their families’-health.
An online newspaper, the Journal, has published an article stating that a former Air Corps mechanic has made toxic chemical exposure claims at Casement Airbase to highlight a lack of health and safety procedures at the facility. The mechanic has claimed that servicemen, their partners and their children have suffered illnesses and development issues due to exposure to carcinogenic and mutagenic chemicals. He further claims that some people have even died due to exposure to the chemicals at the site.
The “whistle-blower” made the claims under a protected disclosure agreement in an address to Ministers, TDs, senators and a Defence Forces representative. Supporting documentation was provided, which claimed that up to twenty former servicemen may have died due to the exposure to toxic chemicals. Furthermore, the documents claim that five children born to parents who had been exposed to the chemicals were with cancer-related conditions or birth defects.
The former Air Corps mechanic told the assembly: “I have come across several personnel whose wives have had multiple miscarriages both in serving and in retired personnel. In one case, a retired member’s wife had eight miscarriages in succession. I am also aware of three personnel who shared in an office in Casement´s engineering wing whose wives all had a miscarriage in the same six-month timeframe.”
These latest toxic chemical exposure claims at Casement Airbase has been when there six personal injury claims already being made against the Defence Forces by former air corps servicemen. These former servicemen claim they were exposed to high levels of the restricted substance dichloromethane for up to twelve years despite the Defence Forces being aware of the health risks associated with extensive exposure.
Furthermore, the Health and Safety Authority (HSA) has threatened to prosecute the Defence Forces. Last year, the HSA conducted an inspection of the working conditions at the Casement Airbase. Among a series of faults at the airbase, inspectors found a failure to conduct basic risk assessments or provide personal protective equipment to personnel working with hazardous substances.
When asked to comment on the latest toxic chemical exposure claims at Casement Airbase, a spokesperson for the Department of Defence told the Journal an independent investigator was reviewing the claims and there would be no comment until the final report was received and studied. A spokesperson for the Defence Forces told the Journal: “Given these matters are subject to litigation, it would be inappropriate to comment further.”
Posted: April 13th, 2017
A judge has approved a settlement of compensation made to a young girl after an accident in a swimming pool left her with a visible scar on her face.
While on holiday with her family in August 2012, a young girl went swimming in the pool of the Sol Principe Hotel in Torremolinos on the Costa Del Sol. While swimming, another guest dived into the pool, landing on top of her. The force of the collision pushed her to the bottom of the pool, causing her chin to collide with the tiles. When she resurfaced, her chin was bleeding rather severely.
The girl received on-site medical attention from hotel staff, and was taken by her family to a local medical clinic.The cut to her chin was cleaned and seristrips were applied to the wound. As a result of the accident, the girl (who was only eight years old at the time of the incident) suffered pain, distress and discomfort. She was left with a pale scar on her chin, 1 cm in length. The family sought legal counsel, and through her father she claimed compensation for a Spanish swimming pool accident against the hotel and the travel agent through whom the holiday had been booked.
In the claim for compensation for a Spanish swimming pool accident, it was alleged the hotel – and, by association, the travel agent – had been negligent and failed in its breach of duty by failing to take adequate precautions while guests were using the swimming pool. It was also alleged there was a lack of adequate supervision of the fellow guest that had dived into the pool by the hotel staff, and that the hotel should have been aware that more staff on site would have prevented the accident from occurring.
The defendants denied liability, and a full defence was entered against the claim. It was also argued that the case should be heard in Spain, rather than in Ireland, because of the location in which it took place. However, the case was brought to the Circuit Civil Court in Dublin, where it was heard by Mr Justice Raymond. It was explained that an initial offer of settlement amounting to €5,000 compensation for a Spanish swimming pool accident had been made by the two defendants, without admission of liability.
The offer of settlement was of a value that would be offered to the girl if the family were to successfully bring a claim in Spain. Judge Groarke heard that the offer had been since increased to €12,500 after initially being rejected by the family. Due to continued disputes of liability, the family had agreed to accept the increased offer. As the girl was a minor at the time of the incident, the judge had to approve the settlement of compensation. He stated that, after hearing the circumstances of the case, he was happy to approve the settlement of compensation for a Spanish swimming pool accident.
Posted: March 14th, 2017
A broken restaurant chair accident claim has been resolved at the Circuit Civil Court in favour of a woman who suffered a soft tissue back injury.
In May 2014, the thirty-four year old woman was dining in the company of her friends at the China Kitchen restaurant in Beaumont. While they were eating, one of the legs of her chair became detached. The chair collapsed beneath her. The woman manged to save herself from impact with the floor, but in doing so she twisted her back in such a way that she felt immediate and intense pain. A waiter saw the incident and came to her assistance. However, rather than find her a safe chair, he tried to repair the broken one.
Due to the tenderness and pain across her lower lumbar region, the woman-who worked as a cleaner-attended her GP and was prescribed painkillers. Although the painkillers helped, she also had to attend physiotherapy sessions. She continued to experience intermittent pain in her back after working in her job as a cleaner or after sitting for long periods. She claimed that the pain she endured severely impacted upon her life.
The woman sought legal counsel, and made a broken restaurant chair accident claim against the owners of the China Kitchen restaurant – Xwfx Limited. The claim alleged that the restaurant had been negligent in providing her with a dangerous chair, and therefore were directly responsible for her injuries.
The owners of the establishment failed to respond to the Injuries Board request for consent to conduct an assessment. They further failed to attend a subsequent court hearing to defend the broken restaurant chair accident claim made against them. The woman consequently obtained a judgement in her favour in default of appearance.
When the broken restaurant chair accident claim was presented to Judge Jacqueline Linnane at the Circuit Civil Court, the judge was told that it was for the assessment of damages only. After hearing details of the woman´s accident and her subsequent injury, Judge Linnane awarded the woman €17,500 in settlement of her broken restaurant accident claim.
Posted: January 31st, 2017
A play school in Dublin has been ordered to pay a higher settlement of compensation to a young girl who fell and badly injured her leg whilst in their care.
The accident occurred in April 2015 at the Larkin Early Education Centre in Ballybough, Dublin, climbed on top of a wardrobe. However, the little girl soon fell to the floor and was subsequently rushed to hospital. An x-ray revealed that she had fractured her left tibia and she underwent emergency surgery to reset the broken bone.
After she was discharged from hospital, the young girl had to wear a full leg cast and continued to wear a protective boot for weeks after the cast was removed. Two years on and the little girl has not fully recovered, complaining to her mother of pains in her leg where the fracture occurred. Her mother, acting on her behalf, made a claim for personal injury compensation against the Larkin Early Education Centre.
The Injuries Board Ireland first assessed the claim, after which an offer of compensation of €31,000 was made by the play centre. However, the mother’s legal counsel did not believe that this was a fair settlement and advised that she refuse the offer. The mother acted on this advice, and as no other offer of compensation was made, the case proceeded to the Circuit Civil Court for a hearing.
The hearing, overseen by Mr Justice Raymond Groarke, occurred earlier this week in Dublin. The judge was detailed the circumstances of the accident and how the injury has affected the little girl. Judge Groarke agreed that the settlement offered by the play school was not adequate for the nature of the injury sustained.
The Book of Quantum, which has recently been revised, says that the minimum compensation to be awarded for a fracture with a displaced bone is €40,500. Additionally, injuries to the tibia are more serious than those for the fibula, and as the girl still suffers from the injury two years later, the compensation should be higher than the minimum.
Posted: December 12th, 2016
The Circuit Civil Court has heard a claim for a restaurant employee slip and fall accident made by a woman who worked at Dublin´s Heuston Station.
In May 2013, the twenty-five year old woman was working at the open air restaurant outside Heuston Station in Dublin, when she slipped on pigeon droppings and fell sideways on her knees and back, suffering soft tissue injuries to her ankle, knees and lower back.
The woman made a claim for a restaurant employee slip and fall accident against her employer – Heuston Refreshment Rooms – and Córas Iompair Éireann (CIE) for failing to deal with a serious pigeon problem that has affected travellers and staff at the Dublin station.
Both defendants denied their liability and refused their consent for the Injuries Board to assess the claim for a restaurant employee slip and fall accident. The Injuries Board subsequently issued the woman with an authorisation to pursue her claim through the courts system.
The hearing to determine liability was heard by Mr Justice Raymond Groarke at the Circuit Civil Court in Dublin. At the hearing Judge Groarke heard that the plaintiff had often had to shoo pigeons away from the open air tables and had reported the problem to her employer.
Representatives of the Heuston Refreshment Rooms told the judge that the restaurant had complained to CIE, but the measures that CIE had implemented to resolved the problem – including introducing a hawk to which the pigeons had become acquainted – had proved to be ineffective.
Judge Groarke found in the plaintiff´s favour and awarded her €22,500 compensation in settlement of her claim for a restaurant employee slip and fall accident. The judge ruled that both defendants were aware the pigeons were a problem and a potential cause of injury; and, although granting judgement against both defendants, he would make an order in favour of the restaurant against CIE.
Posted: October 10th, 2016
A child’s Injuries Board assessment for a fall from a window compensation has been approved by a judge in Dublin Circuit Court.
Róisín Byrne was just fifteen months old when, in August 2012, she fell from the large sash window of the Georgian building in which she was living with her parents. The little girl fell three metres before landing on a fire escape, sustaining injuries that included lacerations to her forehead, broken ribs and a punctured lung. Róisín, now five years old, has recovered from her injuries though still bears a scar on her head from the fall.
The safety of the window had already been called into question by Ronan Byrne and Chloe Murphy, Róisín’s parents. As the window opens just half a metre from the ground, they were concerned that it would pose a danger to their young child. The subsequently requested that the caretaker add an extra security mechanism to prevent an accident. The request was never heeded, and an accident did indeed occur.
Chloe, acting on her daughter’s behalf, consulted a personal injuries solicitor and proceeded to file for assessment with the Injuries Board Ireland. Enda Woods, the owner of the Georgian property, situated in Blackrock, consented to the assessment. The Injuries Board calculated a settlement of compensation worth €46,000 for Róisín’s injuries.
Though there was mutual consent between the parties concerning the value of the settlement, as the claim was made on behalf of a child, the sum had to be approved by a judge before it could be awarded. The sum was in excess of €15,000, and as such it was assessed by Mr Justice Raymond Graorke in the Circuit Court.
At the approval hearing, Mr Justice Raymond Groarke heard the circumstances of Róisín’s accident and the extent of her injuries. He proceeded to approve the settlement, which will be paid into court funds until Róisín’s eighteenth birthday.
Posted: September 26th, 2016
In the coming weeks, a revised Book of Quantum is to be introduced to Irish in an effort to update compensation settlements awarded to injured parties.
First published in 2004, the book of Quantum is a reference publication used by solicitors, judges and insurance companies to determine the amount of compensation the victim of an accident is entitled to. The book accounts for a range of of physical injuries and provided estimates of settlements based upon severity and permanence of the injury.
However, over the past few years, an increasing number of professionals have come out to criticise the Book of Quantum, claiming that it is outdated and no longer compensates fairly. Judges and solicitors have increasingly ignored the guidelines provided, or instead will take the highest value given. This leads to various inconsistencies in the settling of compensation claims.
As a result, Ireland’s senior judges engaged in discussions with the Courts Services and the Injuries Board concerning a revision of the Book. A team analysed around 52,000 personal injury claims made in Ireland between 2013 and 2014, using these data to create a new reference text. This new Book of Quantum will be published in the next few weeks, and many hope that it will restore consistency to the system.
Revisions include a recalculation of the estimates provided to account for inflation and an increase in the number of subcategories for both severity and permanence. This allows those settling a claim to award more appropriate figures of compensation depending upon the injury.
The Book of Quantum only accounts for physical injuries inflicted upon to the injured party. He or she may also be able to claim for emotional trauma or financial losses: as such, it is best to consult a solicitor before embarking on a claim for personal injuries compensation.
Posted: August 24th, 2016
A five-figure settlement of compensation has been paid to a bicycle courier who was injured in a road accident with a taxi.
The accident occurred in March 2015, when Rotimi Omotayo was cycling on the Custom House Quay. However, taxi driver Kenneth Griffin pulled out from one of the lanes on the carriageway and snowed Rotimi from his bicycle.
Luckily, Rotimi was not seriously injured in the accident. Yet when he made a claim to the Injuries Board, his claim was dismissed on the grounds that he was believed to have contributed to his injury. The Injuries Board proceeded to issue the courier with authorisation to pursue his claim through the courts, and the case went to the High Court of Dublin. It was overseen by Mr Justice Bernard Barton.
During the hearing, Judge Barton heard evidence from witnesses for both Rotimi and Mr Griffin. It needed to be determined whether Rotimi had breached the Road Traffic Regulations by cycling in a hatched area.
However, upon hearing that Rotimi needed to deliver to the river side of the Quay, and as such was entitled to cycle in the outside lane before turning, Judge Barton dismissed allegations of contributory negligence and found in his favour.
When assessing damages, Judge Barton commented that he was not going to consult the Book of Quantum as he deemed it “hopelessly out of date and of little assistance”.
Instead, Judge Barton chose to apply Tort Law and awarded Rotimi €30,000 in general damages. Concerning the claim for special damages, the judge determined that there no evidence to show that Rotimi suffered a lack of earnings. He did, however, allow for compensation of Rotimi’s legal costs.
Posted: May 27th, 2016
The Circuit Civil Court has awarded a kitchen assistant a settlement of compensation for injuries she sustained after slipping on wet leaves at her workplace.
The accident occurred at the Baltinglass Hospital on the 19th November 2012 when Ann Groves, a fifty-eight year-old kitchen assistant, was walking towards the rear entrance of her workplace. However, as she was walking, Anne slipped on a patch of wet leaves, which left her with injuries to her ankle. The swelling would not disappear when an ice pack was applied, and upon visiting her GP, Ann was diagnosed with soft tissue damage to her ankle.
However, despite the joint support provided to her by her doctor, Ann continued to experience pain. Her sleeping was interrupted and she found that she could neither stand nor walk for prolonged periods. Ann then went of courses of physiotherapy and acupuncture to try and lessen the pain, and in 2014 even had her spinal cord surgically stimulated. Though this did help alleviate the pain, it never went away.
Ann sought legal counsel and proceeded to make a claim for work injury compensation against the Health Service Executives, her employers. However, the HSE denied that they were liable for her injuries, claiming that there was an established cleaning system for the hospital grounds. Additionally, they argued that Ann’s lack of caution contributed to her own injury.
As liability was contested between the parties, Ann was issued with authorisation by the Injuries Board to pursue her claim in court. The case was heard in the Circuit Civil Court earlier this month by Judge Barry Hickson.
After hearing the evidence, Judge Hickson ruled in Ann’s favour. He dismissed the HSE’s allegations that she had been negligent after hearing a testimony from a maintenance engineer who stated that the maintenance team only started work after the kitchen staff, and as such would not have cleared the wet leaves. Ann was then awarded €25,879 in compensation for her work accident.
Posted: May 9th, 2016
The Dublin Criminal Court has fined a company €200,000 for breaches in health and safety laws that resulted in the death of an employee.
The accident happened on the 28th November 2015 when a supervisor at VF Coldstores Ltd, Robert Ceremuga, was working in a warehouse owned by the company. Robert was killed when a scaffold that was supporting over thirty six tonnes of food products collapsed because of a collision involving a forklift. However, an investigation discovered that the employee who was driving the forklift had been working with the company for just three weeks and lacked the appropriate license to drive the vehicle.
The Health and Safety Authority (HSA) prosecuted VF Coldstores Ltd for serious and fatal breaches of health and safety laws. Earlier this year, a representative for the company plead guilty to the charges brought against them. At the hearing in the Circuit Criminal Court, Dublin, Maria – Robert’s widow – gave a victim impact statement. After this, Judge Melanie Greally adjourned such that she could take a “scientific approach” to calculating the fine.
Last week, the hearing recommenced. Judge Greally issued a €200,000 fine to VF Coldstores Ltd for their criminal actions. Brian Higgisson, the Assistant Chief Executive of the HSA, commented that “It is important that employers adequately manage and conduct work activities, in particular carrying out risk assessments before any major works, such as alterations to racking. These assessments should ensure that everyone has the necessary training, knowledge and experience to complete the work in a safe manner.”