Painter awarded €95,000 after falling through countertop hole at Starbucks


7 March 2023

A painter/decorator who injured his leg while spray-painting the ceiling of a Starbucks café has been awarded more than €95,000 by the High Court.

Neville Curley’s Midlands Painters and Decorators business was subcontracted by Summerhill Construction Company Ltd to carry out painting work at the Starbucks in Dungarvan, Co Waterford.

Mr Curley (59) sued Summerhill arising out of the accident on July 24th, 2017 when he claimed the defendant failed to provide a safe place of work.

He claimed that while trying to access part of the ceiling to paint it, he fell through a hole in a countertop which had been cut out for a sink and which had been covered with black plastic.

Summerhill denied the claims and pleaded contributory negligence in that Mr Curley had, among other things, failed to watch where he was going and standing on the countertop without permission.

The court heard there was a significant dispute between Mr Curley and the defendant over whether he had permission to stand on the countertop which had been installed ahead of schedule and therefore presented an access difficulty for the painter who used a pair of scissors lift and ladder to paint the other areas of the ceiling.

He claimed that he was told by Summerhill managing director, Jason O’Sullivan, that there was “no problem” about standing on the countertop.

Mr O’Sullivan denied this.  He said he would have been concerned at any suggestion that Mr Curley stand on the countertop, due to the danger of falling off, damaging the countertop, and generally the fact that, in a countertop such as this, there would be apertures and holes.

The court also heard there was a dispute between the parties over whether the counter had been covered with black plastic by the defendant.

Ruling in favour of Mr Curley, Mr Justice Mark Sanfey said that, on the balance of probabilities, he accepted the counter was covered in tightly wrapped black polythene. It had not been put there by Mr Curley or his workmen, he said.

He also concluded that Mr Curley probably raised the issue of standing on the counter, and that Mr O’Sullivan replied in a relatively casual and off-hand manner with “no problem”, or words to that effect.

The judge said Mr Curley struck his shin heavily when he went through the countertop hole all the way to the ground.  His left knee was bleeding profusely and after receiving some treatment on site went to an out-of-hours GP and then to Nenagh Hospital for an x-ray.

Mr Curley suffered a serious injury which required two operations, he said.  The first was a full replacement of the knee, and subsequently a full revision of his knee surgery.

His capacity for work has diminished – although he is perhaps getting to the stage of life when that is to be expected – but his active life outside work has also suffered, with his hobbies of golf and skiing being adversely affected, he said.

He considered his injuries to be at the higher end of the “severe and permanent conditions” category in relation to the knee in the Book of Quantum on personal injuries.

He awarded a total of €159,530.66 general and special damages.

However, in view of his finding that Mr Curley was 40 pc liable in contributory negligence, he reduced the award to €95,718.40.

If you would like an assessment of a claim, you can use the online form available here without obligation or alternatively you can use the automatic claim calculator.

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