Award for supermarket supervisor injured by steel girder increases to €218,000

Scales of Justice - Conflict of Interest and Expert Witness

23 June 2022

The Court of Appeal has increased to €218,000 a €189,000 award over injuries to a supermarket supervisor when a steel girder fell on her leg in the store.

In October 2020, the High Court made the €189,000 award to Joann Twomey (52) over the accident at the Daybreak store, Blackpool, Cork, on April 27, 2015.

Ms Twomey, of Patrick’s Hill, Cork, had sued Jeral Ltd, trading as Daybreak, and her employers, Jeremy and Alice Buckley. Liability had been accepted in the High Court.

However, following the High Court award, the defendants appealed in relation to the amount awarded for loss of earnings.

Ms Twomey cross-appealed against a deduction in her claim to future loss of earnings made by the High Court.

Today, a three-judge Court of Appeal (CoA) increased the award to €218,175 after dismissing the defendants’ appeal and finding with Ms Twomey on her cross-appeal.

The court heard that as a result of her injury, Ms Twomey claimed to have been suffering from severe and ongoing pain at the site of the 25cm laceration to her right calf.

She said this limited her physical activities and in particular, her ability to work as she had done prior to the accident. This was a matter of controversy between the medical experts on both sides.

She resigned from her job with Daybreak, where she had worked for eight years, in October 2015. She took on employment in three other retail outlets but found the workload too heavy due to her injury.

She then got a job with Boots, where she now works three days a week and was described in court by her Boots manager as a “fantastic, absolutely brilliant worker”.

The primary dispute in the defendants’ appeal was whether, because of her injury, she would only be able to work a three-day instead of a five-day week into the future.

Mr Justice Seamus Noonan, on behalf of the CoA, said it was “clear beyond doubt” that the High Court accepted her evidence about her ability to work. That court found her to be an honest and truthful witness, who did not exaggerate the effects of her injury and made every effort to return to her life before the accident.

There was however a significant difference of opinion between the medical experts on both sides as to her future working ability and the cause of her complaints, Mr Justice Noonan said. None of the defendants’ medical evidence sought to suggest her complaints were not genuine or that she was malingering, he said.

The High Court’s acceptance of the truthfulness of her evidence and her inability to work more than three days a week from July 2018 meant that the losses that flowed from this were recoverable. It therefore follows that the defendants’ appeal must fail, Mr Justice Noonan said.

With regards to her cross-appeal, he was satisfied the High Court fell into error in arriving at a 40pc reduction of the future loss-of-earnings figure.

He therefore allowed the cross-appeal and substituted an overall award figure of €218,175. She was also entitled to her costs of the appeal and cross-appeal but the parties could make submissions in relation to this if necessary within 14 days, he said.

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