A woman left permanently disabled after slipping on grapes while shopping in a Tesco store has been awarded €1.4m damages by a High Court judge, writes Ann O’Loughlin.
Mr Justice Anthony Barr made the award to Patricia Walsh, aged 48, of Shannondale Stud, Rehy, Carrigaholt, Co Clare, over the incident in the Tesco store at Kilrush, Co Clare, on August 28, 2012.
The judge said he was satisfied Ms Walsh had suffered permanent back and other injuries, rendering her “grossly disabled in all aspects of her life”.
A stay applies on the award pending appeal and on condition that €500,000 is paid out now, plus 75% of Ms Walsh’s legal costs.
Ms Walsh sued Tesco Ireland, which admitted liability on the first day of the case. The case ran for seven days and involved evidence from 15 doctors.
In his detailed judgment, the judge said it was clear that, as a result of the fall, Ms Walsh suffered a serious injury to the muscles and ligaments of her lower back which caused her severe pain in her lower back, radiating into her lower leg.
She underwent a range of treatment here and in the UK, culminating in insertion of a spinal cord stimulator in February 2015. While that gave her considerable relief, she continued to have constant pain daily and doctors believed she would also need ongoing treatment with rhizotomoies.
A significant injury to her bladder requires her to self-caterise three times a day and she also suffered psychiatric and psychological consequences from her injuries, Mr Justice Barr found.
She was unfit to return to her pre-accident work as a secretary/receptionist and, on the balance of probabilities, would not be fit to return to work again, he said.
Formerly an active sportswoman who played GAA with Clare and Munster, Ms Walsh is unable to participate in sports and dancing with her daughters, especially riding horses, and finds that very distressing, he added.
He accepted her evidence that lower back injuries experienced after a fall in 2008 had resolved completely for four years before the fall in the Tesco store.
Videos of Ms Walsh taken for Tesco by a private investigator did not disclose her engaging in any activity that was inconsistent with her evidence, he said.
Tesco asked Ms Walsh about images of her at a One Direction concert with her children. Mr Justice Barr accepted her evidence that she wanted to give her children some “happy memories from childhood” and had paid for that with pain in the days afterwards.
He awarded total damages of €1.43m, including some €393,000 for loss of earnings to date and into the future; €270,000 general damages to date and into the future; €239,846 for aids and appliances; and €132,750 for urology costs.
In evidence to the court, Ms Walsh said she fell in the fruit section of the Kilrush store. She said her legs shot out from under her, she hit the ground and was unable to get up afterwards.
Ms Walsh said her injuries have affected her ability to work on the stud farm where she lives with her family.
This article first appeared in the Irish Examiner..