Posted: August 6th, 2019
The relatives of a 29-year old Donegal man who was killed as he was cutting down some tree at a wind farm construction site wind farm has settled various work death compensation actions for a six-figure award.
Jonathan Gormley, who was employed as a chainsaw operator was killed just prior to Christmas in 2015. Mr Gormley, the father of two young children, while cutting down trees at the construction site for the Meenadreen Wind Farm in the Barnesmore area of County Donegal.
The inquest into Mr Gormley’s death was informed that Mr Gormley was crouched down and a pine tree was across his left shoulder when he was found. It is believed that he had not been seen for almost two and a half hours before a work colleague, Joe Devaney, located him.
Mr Devaney told the inquest that he last saw Mr Gormley at approximately 11.30am or 12pm on December 21. It had been a particularly windy day. Mr Devaney called Mr Gormley’s mobile phone four times between 2.17pm and 2.36pm, but got no answer and became concerned. When found Mr Gormley he was on his knees with his helmet on and a tree down on his shoulder. He as unable to find Gormley’s pulse.
After a number of unsuccessful attempts to remove the tree he was given approval to cut the tree. Mr Gormley could not be revived and was pronounced dead at the scene at the accident. Medical testimony at the inquest said the cause of death was traumatic or mechanical asphyxia secondary to compression of the chest due to a fallen tree.
Mr Gormley’s partner Mairead Coughlin and his Mr Gormley’s parents took the wrongful death compensation action against Viridian Energy Ltd trading as Energia, owners of the wind farm, and Softwood Ireland Ltd
in relation to the accident on December 21, 2015.
It was claimed there was a failure to have any or any appropriate employee to co-ordinate chainsaw
work and to ensure no chainsaw worker was permitted to be completed by a one on his/her own. It was further claimed Mr Gormley had been been permitted to clear a stand of trees manually using a chainsaw in circumstances where he allegedly should have been provided with appropriate mechanical plant and equipment.
Further claims said there was a failure to ensure all chainsaw and tree-felling work was not permitted once there were gale force gusts of up to 44 knots. Due to this Mr Gormley had been permitted to work on a
day which was unsuitable for the type of work i he was trying to complete and when it was dangerous to perform chainsaw work in a stand of allegedly unstable, windblown and haphazard trees.
The claims were denied by the defendants.
Following talks between all parties, Michael Cush SC told the High Court the six-figure sum was a “global settlement figure”. Justice Garett Simons approved the settlements of the compensation actions including those for
nervous shock over the death of the father of two in Donegal in 2015 and said that it was a reasonable one.
Posted: February 4th, 2019
The Labour Court overturned an unsuccessful claim of wrongful dismissal, taken by a Polish worker against his former place of work employer in 2018.
The worker was accused by his former employer of ‘stealing’ from him by faking a back injury and being absent from work for a prolonged period of time. The WRC decided that the appropriate figure of compensation is €10,000.
The individual told the WRC that that he hurt his back in an incident on 11 September 2016 while he was carrying a box of apples from the top of a pallet during his normal work duties. After the incident he had was absent from work for six weeks on sick leave.
During this absence the company’s health and safety manager reviewed the accident that led to his injury. As part of the accident review the health and safety manager informed the court that she looked at the security camera footage CCTV footage of the incident, contracted a private investigator and spoke to the employee’s managers. However she did not interview the employee.
The employers advised her that, following a recent change in the man’s roster, it had been remarked that it was causing some difficulties in his ability to provide adequate care for his children.
At the first WRC hearing in 2018 it was also claimed that a private detective saw saw the employee lifting his daughter not longer after he claimed to have injured his back. In addition to this the health and safety manager said CCTV footage of the incident suggested that the worker picked up and dropped the box of apples in a ‘staged and orchestrated way’. At the appeal hearing the manager confirmed this once more, and remarked again that she felt the employee’s injury was a fabrication and that he should not have received his salary for the period of time he was absent due to the injury.
The worker was asked to attend a formal review meeting with his shift manager, who had access to CCTV clips of the incident and witness statements, on November 1 , 2016. However, the employee was not given access to the statements or the security camer footage to ready himself for this meeting. After the meeting it was ruled that the employee was ‘dishonest’ in reporting his injury, and recommended that the matter was sent forward for a disciplinary hearing. At the disciplinary hearing the employee was sacked for serious misconduct.
The complainant told the WRC hearing told that he had not been provided with all the relevant evidence to prepare for the formal investigation meeting, was only given a copy of the health and safety manager’s report prior to his sacking. He added that he had not been interviewed as part of the review process. He said he was unhappy with, and did not agree with, the findings of the investigation which claimed that he did not injure his back.
He informed the WRC hearing that he had been to see two different occupational health practitioners and handed in a medical report from his own local doctor GP to his employer in relation to the pain he sustained in his back.
WRC deputy chairperson, Louise O’Donnell said in her ruling that the company’s failure to give the employee with documentation in relation to his dismissal was an issue in relation and did not give the employee an adequate chance to respond defend himself against the charges directed against him.
The WRC found that the employee’s dismissal was not ‘fair’ and directed that the employer pay him €10,000 in unfair dismissal compensation.
Posted: November 21st, 2018
€25,000 stabbing attack compensation has been awarded to a Garda who was attacked with a blade on an aeroplane as he was deporting a Nigerian man to Lagos. Detective Garda Eamon Moran suffered permanent scarring in the incident and has now been awarded Garda workplace compensation in a hearing at the High Court.
Legal representative for Garda Moran, Barrister Breffni Gordon, told the High Court that while working with the Garda National Immigration Bureau, he was accompanying a Nigerian national on a flight between Madrid and Lagos when the deportee managed to locate a razor blade which he used to attacked the Garda, cutting him across his right ear, the right side of his face and on his upper back. A doctor who was travelling on the same flight was able to treat him and help to stop the bleeding. The attack took place in March 2012 when Garda Moran, now 44 years old, was aged 38.
Garda Moran was given further medical attention at a Madrid hospital on the return leg of his journey from Lagos to Dublin. Here he was given 29 stitches. Upon his return to Ireland, he attended with his family doctor who prescribed a course of anti-inflammatory analgesic medication to treat the wounds.
Despite making a full recovery from the incident, Garda Moran has been advised that his scars will be visible for the rest of his life. High Court Justice Twomey was advised that Garda Moran experienced a significant amount of stress and sleep disturbance following the attack on the flight. As he tried to deal with this he had attended almost a dozen counselling sessions. In 2015 his counsellor advised that he was not suffering from any residual post-traumatic stress syndrome.
Following an absence of approximately four months Garda Moran returned to work in his previous role and previous duties. Judge Twomey awarded Garda Moran €25,000 compensation for an attack at work injury with an additional €3,000 special expenses.
Posted: June 15th, 2018
Benjamin Heffernan, a former bin man who experienced a severe brain injury after he was thrown from a waste disposal truck to the roadhas settled his work injury compensation action for €3.5m.
Mr Heffernan fell through the side door of the van cracking his skull in the fall and being inflicted with a brain injury, his solicitor Liam Reidy SC advised the High Court. He was working with a van that was owned by Killarney Waste Disposal when he was bringing compost bins to households in the Durrus area of Bantry, Co Cork at the time of the accident occurring when the incident occurred in January 2015.
When he landed on the road after being thrown from the bin lorry, Mr Heffernan lost consciousness and was rushed by ambulance to nearby Dunmanaway. From there he was airlifted to Cork University Hospital where he underwent an emergency craniotomy. After this he was later brought to the National Rehabilitation Hospital, Dublin. He remained in the hospital until August 2015.
Mr Heffernan, now aged 50, will no long be able to work though he has regained some mobility according to his legal representatives. In approving the work injury car accident compensation settlement Mr Justice Kevin Cross said he felt it was a good one and he wished Mr Heffernan and his family all the best.
Solicitor Amy Connolly of Cantillons Solicitors, speaking outside the court, said Mr Heffernan had remained in hospital for 33 weeks following the accident having experienced life changing injuries. She said: “This settlement will provide for the ongoing care of Mr Heffernan, but no money can ever truly compensate him for the effect his injuries have had on his day to day life”.
Counsel for the waste disposal company argued that Mr Heffernan had allegedly told the driver to proceed before he got in the back of the van. Additionally it was claimed he (Mr Heffernan) did not ensure the van was decommissioned when he allegedly was aware of a defect in the latch of the van door. Mr Heffernan denied these claims.
Posted: December 10th, 2017
In its first ever report the the Personal Injuries Commission (PIC) has called for injury data held by insurance companies to be released on an ongoing basis.
The PIC submitted the approvals to the government, saying that data regarding the incidence of ‘whiplash’ and other soft tissue injuries should be released to.
Mr Justice Nicholas Kearns, Chairperson of the Commission that was established to address the rising expense of motor insurance, remarked that these figures should be made available from insurance companies. They could then form part of the National Claims Information Database which is being developed by the Central Bank of Ireland currently.
Additionally the report also finds that the figures being paid out for whiplash compensation claims should be connected to the severity of the injury inflicted, with a standardised grading scheme set up to make this easier. The report also says there should be more transparency in respect of payouts of whiplash compensation as levels of general damages are not currently accounted for in legislation.
Legal firms have responded negatively to the report. Jody Cantillon, Associate solicitor at Cantillons Solicitors commented on the report saying “Firstly, the basis for the Personal Injuries Commission seems to us to be flawed in that the rise in insurance premiums has nothing at all to do with personal injuries litigation.
Mr Cantillon added “We would have grave concerns about a standardised approach to the diagnosis, treatment and reporting of soft tissue injuries. No one person or injury is the same. The impact that a back injury might have on a new mother is different to the impact such an injury might have on a young man. A standardised approach would not take sufficient consideration of the individuals circumstances.
He finished by saying: “We are surprised at the Commission’s ‘recommendation’ that the sums awarded in whiplash claims should be linked to the severity of the condition. This is already the case, so there is nothing new there.
Posted: May 10th, 2016
A Dublin company has been issued a six-figure for for serious breaches of health and safety laws that resulted in the death of an employee.
Robert Ceremuga, aged thirty-two, was killed at work when a racking that contained thirty-six tonnes of food products collapsed whilst he was working in a VF Coldtores Ltd.. A report after the incident concluded that a forklift had collided with the racking, causing it to fall. Additionally, it was uncovered that the employee driving the forklift was working at the facility for just three weeks and lacked an adequate license to operate the forklift.
Following the reports, VF Coldstores LTD was prosecuted by the Health and Safety Authority (HSA) for breaching health and safety regulations. Last month, during a hearing at the Circuit Criminal Court in Dublin, the company plead guilty to the charges. During the same hearing, Maria – Robert’s widow – read a witness impact statement. Judge Melanie Greally then adjourned the hearing such that she could undertake a “scientific approach” to calculating the fine.
Earlier this week, the hearing was reconvened. VF Coldstores Ltd was then issued with a €200,000 for their fatal breaches of health and safety laws. After the announcement of the fine, the Chief Executive of the HSA, Brian Higgisson, commented to the press that “It is important that employers adequately manage and conduct work activities, in particular carrying out risk assessments before any major works, such as alterations to racking. These assessments should ensure that everyone has the necessary training, knowledge and experience to complete the work in a safe manner.”
Posted: September 5th, 2015
A forty-seven year-old man, who sustained grave brain injuries after he fell off a ladder whilst working for a family company, has been awarded a settlement of compensation.
The accident occurred on the 22nd March 2011, shortly after Michael Brady from Co. Kildare began working at a business owned by his family, Philip Brady Building Contractors Ltd. Whilst working in Naas with his father, Philip Brady Senior (who, though related to the owner of the company, does not own it himself), he was asked to clear vegetation from a blocked gutter. To do this, he climbed a sixteen-foot ladder and was left briefly unattended by his father.
However, when Philip returned, he found Michael lying unresponsive at the bottom of the ladder. He was rushed to hospital where emergency surgery was carried out on his brain. Since the initial operation, Michael has had further procedures carried out to reconstruct damage to his face and to amend some of the brain damage. Despite these procedures, Michael is still visually impaired and also relies on assistance for day-to-day life.
As a result of the damage he sustained, it was decided that Michael was unable to represent himself in court. As a result, his father – Michael Brady – made a claim for work injury compensation on his son’s behalf. In the claim, Philip alleges that the ladder provided to his son was not suitable for the work that he was required to do. He also claims that it did not have adequate support to prevent a fall such as Michael’s.
However, Philip Brady Contractors Ltd denied any liability for Michael’s accident and the case proceeded to the High Court. However, shortly before the meeting was to commence, the judge was informed that negotiations had lead to the offer of €1.5 million in work injury compensation. After a presentation of facts concerning Michael’s accident, the judge approved the settlement.