Caretaker awarded €95,000 for back problem sustained emptying bin

Limerick County Council

4 July 2021

A cemetery caretaker who injured his lower back while attempting to empty a rubbish bin has been awarded more than €95,000 by the High Court.

Dermot Price (61), who worked in the Limerick City and County Council-operated cemetery in Castlemungret, Co Limerick, sued the council over two accidents involving his work emptying bins.

The council denied the claims and argued that much, if not all of his complaints in relation to his lower back and his shoulder were referable to long-standing degenerative changes in those areas.

They were, it was argued, attributable to his age and his previous sporting activity playing rugby as a young man.

Mr Justice Robert Barr found the council was negligent in relation to the first accident, on January 6th, 2014, in which he injured his back. The council was not negligent in relation to the second accident more than a year later, on March 19th, 2015, when he said he injured his right shoulder.

The judge however said the shoulder injury must be “seen as a continuum” which began with the first accident and got progressively worse thereafter, culminating in the deterioration after March 2015.

He awarded him €95,379, including €26,827 for loss of earnings and €9,197 for loss of pension entitlements.

Missing handles

In his first action, Mr Price said he injured his back when trying to remove a steel inner lining from a full black bin. He claimed handles on the bin were missing and defective as were other bins in the cemetery.

He said he had brought this to the attention of his employer and also said when there were no black bags to line the bins, it could take a number of days to be supplied with them and this was why there was no liner in the bin on January 6th, 2014.

He was out of work for two weeks after the accident but continued to receive treatment.

He said the second accident happened while he was pushing a 1,100 litre wheelie bin up an incline towards the cemetery gate. While he had help from two colleagues, as they were about three quarters of the way up the incline, he felt an onset of severe pain in his right shoulder.

He did not report what happened but had to seek medical attention and was out of work for 27 months afterwards.

Mr Justice Barr was satisfied that liability for the first accident rested with the council for its failure to take account of complaints in relation to the defective condition of the bins and a failure to regularly inspect and repair or replace them. There was no contributory negligence on Mr Price’s part.

He was also satisfied he was an honest and forthright man who gave a truthful account as a witness of his dealings with the defendant and of the circumstances of the two accidents.

Source: Irish Times

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