Prisoner’s case over gym finger injury dismissed

Inmate tried to sue State for compensation after weight-lifting machine dropped on tip of his finger

A prisoner at a gym in the Midlands prison, who had part of a weight-lifting machine dropped on the tip of his ring finger, tried to sue the State for compensation.

Patrick O’Leary in his 40s, of 3 Churchfield Square, Churchfield, Cork, brought his case to Cork Circuit Court yesterday arising out of his injury on July 25, 2012.

However, after hearing the plaintiff’s case, Judge Gerard O’Brien said he did not need to hear evidence from the Prison Service. “I am dismissing the case because of in the internal inconsistencies in the plaintiff’s case. Your client is lucky I am not awarding costs against him,” he said to the plaintiff’s barrister, Seamus Roche.

Mr Roche had complained at the outset that the plaintiff was assured by the defence that the shoulder press from the gym, which was shown in defence photographs, was the one that was there at the time of the accident. Mr Roche said it now transpired this was not the one in use at the time which created difficulties for the plaintiff’s case. Ben Shorten, defence barrister, said: “We did not assure them this was the machine. It is not for us to make the plaintiff’s case.”

Judge O’Brien concluded on this point: “Essentially the machine the plaintiff says he was injured on was not in the prison at the time.”

Mr Roche asked the plaintiff if he was using the shoulder press at the time. Mr O’Leary said: “My training partner was using it… I was spotting.” He testified that on one side of it there was a plastic bag tied to stop the weights from moving.

“But when he was lifting it the bag holding the bar moved, it shifted and the weight came down on top of him. I put my hands under the bar to lift it off him. It was a split-second decision. I knew something was wrong. I knew he was in trouble.

“I put my hand out to take the pressure off him. I did not realise what was wrong. My hand got stuck under it. Someone had to lift it off my finger. My finger was trapped under it,” he said.

He had to get 22 stitches to the wound and there was damage done to the nail which still has a lump on it.

“I couldn’t train for a long time after that. It is sore, especially in the cold weather. I have to file the lump on my finger nail. It is not nice to look at,” said Mr O’Leary.

Mr Shorten said the plaintiff’s case was that the machine was defective. However, he said that particular machine was not in the prison at the time. He also said that whatever occurred happened in the afternoon and not in the morning as described by the plaintiff.

“Even if the court accepts your evidence that you got the right machine and the right time of the day, would it not have been an awfully stupid thing to do to put your hand under it?” Mr Shorten asked. Mr O’Leary replied: “Good question. It was a split-second decision. Automatically when someone was in trouble I tried to get the pressure off the weight.”

Mr Shorten said: “None of the prison officers witnessed the incident.” Mr O’Leary replied: “They say that.” Mr Shorten asked him if he received compensation arising out of an injury to his right hand previously. Mr O’Leary said he received €4,000 years ago when someone threw a bottle in a hotel and it struck his hand in a row that had nothing to do with him.


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