A supermarket worker, who injured her back while loading a trolley, was awarded damages of €85,000 by the High Court recently.

Delivering judgment, Mr Justice Anthony Barr said the worker was required in the course of her work as a shop assistant to fetch a large number of boxes from a storeroom. The boxes weighed between 13kg and 15kg and contained a number of suitcases of varying sizes.

Summarising the injured worker’s evidence, the judge said she stated that on the day of the accident, the boxes in the storeroom were stacked above her head height and she had to knock them off the top of the pile and let them fall to the ground before putting them on a trolley. She filled one trolley, but suffered a back injury while loading a second trolley.

There was, the judge said, a dispute between the parties on whether the worker had any manual handling training on the day of her induction with the supermarket. Saying that the worker struck him as a truthful witness, he noted she said she was given a tour of the premises, given a uniform and told to sign a record card.

She had not, Mr Justice Barr said, received adequate training in respect of the duties of her employment. A demonstration with a box of A4 paper was not remotely comparable to the lifting exercise the worker had to do in the course of her work. Also he said there was no proper follow up to the training. If there had been, the supermarket would have known that the worker was using an incorrect and dangerous method of lifting. This should, he said, have been spotted and corrected.

Assessing damages, the judge said the injured worker has fairly constant pain in her back. He awarded her €80,000 in general damages for her injuries (€60,000 for past pain and suffering and €20,000 for future). He awarded a further €5,000 for agreed specials, bringing the total award to €85,000.

The award for general damages is noteworthy in that the top figure provided for in the Book of Quantum for a back injury with significant ongoing consequences is €69,700. At €80,000, the award is over €10,000 above the maximum provided for in the Book of Quantum. The judge did not mention the Book of Quantum in his judgment. He granted a stay in the event of an appeal, provided that the employer paid out €20,000 immediately. (Meus v Dunnes Stores: High Court, Dublin, December 2014)

Source: Health & Safety Review


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