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Workplace Solicitor News

New Book of Quantum to Make Settlements Consistent

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few years, an increasing number of professionals have come out to criticise the Book of Quantum, claiming that it is outdated and no longer compensates fairly.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.  

Courier Compensated for Taxi Injury

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.

 

Five-Figure Compensation for Work Injuries

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.

Six-Figure Fine for Company after Work Death

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.”

Compensation Awarded for Injury to Waitress

Posted: April 12th, 2016

Dublin’s High Court have awarded a waitress in a hotel a compensation settlement of €500,000 after deeming that the crockery she was asked to use was unfit for purpose.

Sophie Caillaud – aged forty-two – was working at the Lough Rynn Hotel in Mohill, Co. Leitrim when the accident occurred. As she was filling up a glass jug, it shattered in her hand, causing a deep cut to her thumb.

Shortly after the accident surgery was performed on the digit to try and help repair any soft-tissue damage sustained. However, Sophie has still not been able to regain full strength in her thumb and as such now experiences difficulty engaging in daily tasks.

During her recovery, Sophie sought legal counsel before proceeding to make a claim for compensation against the Lough Rynn Hotel, her employers. She additionally made a claim for compensation against the Utopia Tableware Ltd and Bunzl Outsourcing Ltd, the two companies that supplied and manufactured the glass jug that caused Sophie’s injury.

However, the defendants argued that Sophie was negligent in her actions, and that she caused her own injuries. They also disputed the amount of compensation being sought, claiming that it was too high for the injuries that she sustained.

As the case was not resolved through negotiations or intervention from the Injruies Board, it proceeded t the High Court in Dublin. There, it was overseen by Mr Justice Kevin Cross, who was told that other staff members at the hotel had previously been injured in similar incidents involving the same glass jug.

Testimony was given from an expert witness, who explained that the joint between the handle and the jug was weakened by repeated hot-and-cold cycles in the dishwasher. As such, he confirmed that the jugs were not fit for purpose.
After Sophie gave evidence at the hearing, judge cross dismissed the allegations made that she had either acted negligently or exaggerated her injuries. Before awarding her a €500,000 compensation settlement, he commented that he had found Sophie to be “entirely genuine”.

Dunnes Stores Found Negligent After Employee Injured

Posted: March 18th, 2016

A judge in the High Court of Dublin have ruled that the retailer were negligent in a claim made after an employee was injured by falling down a flight of stairs.

Jean O’Reilly, the Wexford employee who filed that claim, was working at the checkouts in her local branch of the retailer in Redmond Square when the accident occurred. On the 9th December 2011, as she was reading notices for staff members, she fell down a flight of stairs that connected the locker room and the ground floor.

An ambulance brought Jean from the shop to the hospital, where she received treatment for soft tissue damage to her head and neck. Jean then wore a brace around her neck for six weeks after the accident, and attended a course of physiotherapy to help her wounds heal. During this period Jean was unable to return to work.

Jean sought legal counsel for her workplace accident, and subsequently made a claim for compensation against her employer, Dunnes Stores. In the claim, she said that the noticeboard for staff was placed too close to the top of the stairs, and as such posed a danger. Additionally, she alleges that had there been a handrail on either side of the stairs her accident could have been prevented.

However, Dunnes Stores disputed the claim for compensation, and when asked by the Injuries Board for consent to carry out an assessment, they denied. Jean was then given permission to follow her claim for workplace compensation through the courts, where it was heard earlier this month by Mr Justice Raymond Fullam.

After hearing all the evidence, Judge Fullam determined that Dunnes Stores was guilty of two counts of negligence. The first concerned the dangerous placement of the noticeboard at the top of the stairs, and the second was because of the lack of handrails on the stairs where Jean fell. As such, he found in Jean’s favour.
The judge awarded Jean a €81,500 settlement of compensation for her work accident claim. This consisted of a €65,000 settlement for the pain and loss of amenity she suffered because of the accident, and a €16,500 special damages compensation settlement for the loss of income after her accident.

Hearing Resolves Chef’s Claim for Kitchen Injury

Posted: March 11th, 2016

A chef’s claim for an injury he sustained in a kitchen has been resolved, with an award of €15,000.

Shijun Liu was working as an ordinary chef at the Howard’s Way Restaurant, Rathgar, when the accident occurred. In March 2013, when he was working at a sistered restaurant in Churchtown, Dublin, Mr Liu went to help a cleaner who was attempting to untangle a power hose used  to clean kitchens.

Whilst attempting to untangle the hose, it suddenly started spurting water, spraying hot water on Mr Liu. This caused severe burns to his ankle, and he was rushed to the VHI Clinic in Dundrum for treatment.

The burns were so severe that Mr Liu was unable to return to work for two weeks after the accident. After seeking legal counsel, Mr Liu made a claim for injury compensation against Declan Howard, his employer, trading as Howard’s Way Restaurant. However, no consent was approved such that the Injuries Board could assess Mr Liu’s claim.

The case was taken to the Circuit Civil Court, where it was heard earlier this month by Mr Justice Raymond Groake. Judge Groarke heard evidence that the hose used to clean the facility was not fit for the purpose. After finding in favour of Mr Liu, and granting him €15,000 compensation for his injury claim, Judge Groarke added that he found Mr Liu’s version of events to be very compelling.

Social Worker Injured at Work Receives Compensation

Posted: February 20th, 2016

A man who broke his knee whilst running after a child that was in his care has received a settlement for compensation after a court hearing resolved the case.

The accident occurred in June 2009, when Joseph Kavanagh, aged fifty-four from Enfield in Co. Meath was helping young people with behavioural problems at a Special Care Residential Unit. Asked to accompany one of the youths during a family visit, the teenager – who has remained anonymous throughout the case – became emotionally upset and ran away from Mr Kavanagh.

Mr Kavanagh followed the teenager, but twisted his knee badly as he did so. This caused him to fall, cracking his knee on the road. X-rays performed on Mr Kavanagh in hospital confirmed that the fall had caused him to break his knee, and ever since Mr Kavanagh has complained of continued pain that infringes upon his daily life. He also still has a four centimetre scar on the knee from the fall.

Joseph sough legal counsel and proceeded to make a claim for compensation against the Health Service Executive, HSE, who employed him to work in the facility. Mr Kavanagh claimed that there was no risk assessment carried out before the visit, given that there had been a previous agitation. The care worker claimed that, had such an assessment been carried out, it would have been evident that another carer at the centre should have accompanied his charge on the visit.
His employers denied any liability for the accident, and the claim proceeded to the Circuit Civil Court. Judge Francis Comerford oversaw proceedings, though the HSE did not have a chance to present their defence as Judge Comerford had been informed of a settlement that had been agreed upon and as such, the claim was resolved.

Exact details were not released, though it is believed that the liability was split 50/50 between Mr Kavanagh and his employer. Judge Comerford closed the case after awarding Mr Kavanagh his legal costs.

Six-figure Settlement for Family of Worker

Posted: January 26th, 2016

A compensation settlement of €500,000 has been approved in court for the widow of a man who was killed in a work accident.

Declan Byrne was killed in a tragic accident that occurred on the 30th April 2008. Aged just thirty-one,Mr Byrne was at work on the Connacht Sportsground, assisting in the construction of a new gym. Whilst attempting to realign a 1.4 tonne steel beam, the beam fell and gravely injured Mr Byrne, resulting in his death. An investigation ensued into the circumstances of the accident, after which charges were brought against Mr Byrne’s employers, CDM Steel Ltd for breaches of the 2005 Safety, Health and Welfare at Work Act.

When the case was heard in the Galway Circuit Criminal Court in November 2013, the construction company was acquitted of the charges. The court had heard evidence that Mr Byrne had made the decision to use scaffolding and a bottle jack, choosing this method over a crane, as the blockwork of the new construction had already been almost completed. The judge overseeing the case did comment on the “appalling lack of communication” on the construction site, mentioning that there was also a lack of supervision.

After the announcement that her husband’s employers had been acquitted, Dolores Byrne, from Ballyhaunis in Mayo, made a work accident claim against CDM Steel Ltd following. The widow claimed that, despite their acquittal, the company was liable for her husband’s accident and death. She also brought charges against Portent Developments Ltd (the main contractor for the site), Rugby Football Union’s Connacht division and the owners of the sports goring, the Irish Rugby Football Union.

The parties denied any liability in Mr Byrne’s death, claiming that the fact he jeopardised himself by using the method he did for moving the beam was evidence that he regard for his own safety. The case proceeded to the High Court in Dublin, where Mr Justice Kevin Cross was told that a €500,000 compensation settlement had been offered to the widow for her compensation claim

Mr Justice Cross said that, though he was happy to approve the settlement, it “nothing can replace” what Mrs Byrne and her two children had lost. He offered his condolences to the family before approving the six-figure settlement.

Worker Compensated for Inadequate Training

Posted: December 7th, 2015

A man, who used to work in a meat processing factory, has received a compensation settlement of €415,000 after it was determined he received inadequate training for his job.
The accident occurred on the 11th January 2011, when Mohammed Ali Saleh from Mullingar, Co. Westmeath was at work in the Moyvalley meat factory in Co. Kildare. As he was working, he felt a sharp pain in his back whilst he was working at the pluck station. A later examination determined that Mr Saleh had suffered from a prolapsed disk.
Mr Saleh was no stranger to back problems, though this was worse than he had ever suffered. An MRI scan was conduced that showed that decompression was urgently required, though two operations later, Ms Saleh was still diagnosed with failed back syndrome and is now reliant on crutches to move.
Mr Saleh sought legal counsel before proceeding to make a claim for compensation against his employers. In the claim, he stated that Moyvalley Meats Ireland Limited had failed to ever show him proper use of the plucking process that did not require him to twist his back. This repetitive twisting has been identified as the cause of the prolapsed disc.
However, the employer denied any liability for the injury, claiming that Mr Saleh had indeed been provided with adequate training and that the condition from which he currently suffers was as a result of another, pre-existing condition. No agreement was reached, and as such the case proceeded to the High Court in Dublin where it was overheard by Mr Justice Kevin Cross.
Evidence was given at the hearing by an expert witness who testified that the training that Mr Saleh had received from his employers consisted of watching a fellow employee operate the machine at the plucking station. The expert also stated that no safe system had been implemented as to avoid the twisting manoeuvre, and that the training provided was not adequate to prevent an injury such as Mr Saleh’s.
Judge Cross ruled in Mr Saleh’s favour, saying that Moyvalley meats was breaching its duty to adequately train employees. An award of €415,000 was made to Mr Saleh.
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