Damages over Tesco grape fall reduced to €1.25m

Patricia Walsh and her husband Martin. Picture: CourtPix

A Clare woman left permanently disabled with severe back and other injuries after slipping on grapes while shopping in a Tesco store has had her €1.43m damages award reduced to €1.25m.

Patricia Walsh, aged 48, of Shannondale Stud, Rehy, Carrigaholt, Co Clare, sued over her fall in the fruit section of the Tesco at Kilrush in August 2012. She hit the ground after her legs shot out from under her and was unable to get up afterwards.

Tesco admitted liability on the first day of the High Court hearing but disputed the sums claimed.

On the basis of medical and other evidence heard over seven days, Mr Justice Anthony Barr held she suffered severe physical and psychological injuries, including serious back and bladder injuries, leaving her “grossly disabled in all aspects of her life”.

A former active sportswoman who had played GAA with Co Clare and Munster, she cannot play sports and will probably be unable to resume her work as a part-time secretary, he said.

He awarded €1.43m but Tesco appealed that sum. A stay applied on the award pending appeal on condition €500,000 was paid in advance, plus 75% of her legal costs.

Yesterday the Court of Appeal cut the award by €182,000 on foot of various findings, including about the number of medical procedures to be funded in future and on the appropriate interest rate applicable to future loss of earnings.

While accepting Tesco “to a certain extent” won its appeal, Ms Justice Mary Irvine said Ms Walsh was entitled to costs of the appeal.

That was for reasons including Tesco’s failure to respond to a letter from Ms Walsh’s side last January, before the appeal hearing, offering to accept €1.2m instead of the €1.4m award. Had Tesco accepted that offer, Ms Walsh would have got less than the appeal court had decided she was entitled to, the judge noted.

Tesco, represented by Sean Lynch SC, argued Ms Walsh’s offer came when preparations for the appeal were well under way. Tesco wished to appeal for reasons including it considered the overall award too high and its concern about the possible impact of the High Court findings for other cases, he said.

Seeking Ms Walsh’s costs, Edward Walsh SC, with Pat Quinn SC, said the only engagement Tesco made with their side came very early on when it offered €400,000 to Ms Walsh.

In its judgment, the Appeal Court noted the High Court had found Ms Walsh would probably be unable to return to work and, arising from the significant Court of Appeal judgment in the Russell case concerning interest rates, assumed a 1.5 rate of return (RRR) for future pecuniary loss and 1% for future loss of earnings.

Ms Justice Irvine rejected Tesco’s claim the High Court erred in assuming a 1.5% RRR for future pecuniary loss but found the High Court erred in calculating the claim for future loss of earnings on the basis of a 1% RRR as opposed to 1.5%. That latter finding meant the future loss of earnings claim was reduced by €40,000.

She cut the sum awarded for future urology procedures from €132,750 to €26,550 which, with other reductions, cut the €1,439,495 award to €1,256,652.


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