We have been acting for a client (now aged 47) in connection with a personal injury claim against her former employer arising from an accident at her work premises in January 2017.
On the day of the accident, she was 42 years old and was employed as a shift manager at a shop in Swindon which is part of a major chain.
Her employer was subject to duties under the Manual Handling Operations Regulations 1992 and the Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1999 (‘PUWER’). As from the 01 October 2013, the Regulations no longer impose a direct civil liability but continue to impose a criminal liability and form the basis of common law allegations of negligence in the civil law.
Her employer’s shop was fitted with five metal roller shutters at the front to protect the shop windows. They were manually operated by employees who had to raise them by hand. They were ageing and in a bad state of repair, so they ran badly on their tracks and were prone to buckling. She and her colleagues had to use a great deal of physical force to raise them.
Our client and her fellow employees had complained to their employer on a number of occasions about the faulty shutters but no action was taken to either repair or replace them.
During the morning of her accident, our client attended the store to open it for trade. She opened the first three shutters with considerable physical effort, as usual, but they did not cause her injury. The fourth shutter was more awkward and prone to buckling, and it required her to exert great upward force and hold the shutter steady in its track to stop it buckling. She made several attempts to raise this shutter and, as she did so, she experienced an injury to her right shoulder.
Her employer replaced the shutters with electric ones after the accident.
OUR CLIENT’S CASE
It was our case her accident was caused by the negligence of her employer in that they:-
- Failed to take any or any adequate note that the shutters were in a bad state of repair;
- Failed to take any or any adequate steps to either repair or replace them before our client’s accident;
- Failed to take any or any adequate note of employee complaints about the shutters;
- Failed to make any or any adequate assessment of the risk to staff from lifting the defective shutters;
- Failed to provide temporary repairs to the defective shutters prior to their replacement;
- Failed to instruct employees to leave the shutters permanently open pending their replacement;
- Required our client to lift the defective shutter when it was unsafe to do so;
- Failed to train her in a safe technique for lifting the defective shutters, if one should exist;
- Failed to avoid the need for our client to undertake a manual handling operation when it was reasonably practicable to avoid the same by installing electric shutters;
- Failed to reduce the risk for our client from lifting the shutters to the lowest level reasonably practicable, by repairing, maintaining, greasing or otherwise servicing the defective shutters;
- Failed to maintain the shutters in an efficient state, in efficient working order and in good repair;
- Caused or permitting the shutters to fall into disrepair;
- Failed to provide our client with either safe work equipment or a safe system of work.
As a result of her accident, our client suffered a soft tissue injury to her right shoulder which developed into Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (‘CRPS’) in her right upper limb causing her to stop work. CRPS is a chronic pain condition which develops following trauma and leads to severe, debilitating, persistent pain. Not surprisingly, this also resulted in increased levels of anxiety and depression.
Further, as a result of her shoulder injury, she was on a number of painkillers and other medication which clouded her mind and affected her mobility and she believes contributed to a second accident at her home in February 2018, when she lost her footing whilst descending the staircase causing an ankle injury which in turn also developed into lower limb CRPS.
It was contended by us that it was reasonably foreseeable the first accident would affect her ability to cope and might expose her to injury resulting from the second accident and in the circumstances, there was a direct causal link between these two events and her employer was also liable for the lower limb CRPS.
Both accidents have significantly impacted on the quality of her life in that she has been unable to return to work and is substantially limited in her home and personal life, relying on others for assistance with a number of tasks. Her condition is likely to be permanent.
This was a difficult case for two reasons namely:-
- Liability was robustly denied by the employer’s insurers throughout the case. Proceedings had to be issued at Court and it had been listed for Trial at Swindon County Court in March 2022. Before Trial, the solicitors appointed by the insurers made an offer to settle the case which enabled us to conclude this matter for our client.
- During the course of the litigation, it was clear our medical evidence was not strong enough to support a case that the CRPS in respect of her ankle injury was caused by the medication she was taking for her right shoulder so this had to be reflected in the final settlement figure.
S J Edney obtained damages for our client of £185,000.00 in 2021