Following legal discussions, Mr Justice Robert Eagar was told liability was no longer at issue and the case was in effect only before the court to determine the level of damages.
The plaintiff’s actuarial evidence put the cost to the family arising out of the man’s death and consequent loss of earnings at a sum in excess of €800,000.
The defence actuarial assessment was closer to €500,000. Whatever decision Mr Justice Eagar reaches in relation to loss of earnings, there may be further special damages.
The family of the late Michael O’Donovan, aged 44, a father-of-three from Aghabullogue, Co Cork, and an employee of Cork County Council, brought the case for compensation to the High Court in Cork arising out of his death while working on a compound off Carr’s Hill in November 2012.
In the course of the civil action, the plaintiff’s senior counsel, Dr John O’Mahony, told Mr Justice Eagar Cork County Council was fined €48,000 for a health and safety offence arising out of the investigation into the case.
This fine was imposed in February 2016 after the council pleaded guilty to the health and safety breach at Cork Circuit Criminal Court.
During that case, Judge Seán Ó Donnabháin did not find any aggravating factors such as the carrying out of a work practice in a particular way in order to save money at the expense of safety.
“It appears there has been a sea-change since and they employ outside competent contractors in relation to this work,” he said. A fine of €48,000 plus order for €2,000 expenses was imposed .
On the day of the accident, the tree fell backwards when another man was felling it and it hit a cable which broke a pole which was knocked over. Mr O’Donovan was standing 11ft away and was struck on the head by the pole.
The count to which the council pleaded guilty under the Safety, Health and Welfare at Work Act was a charge of failing to manage and conduct work activity, namely the felling of trees using a chainsaw, in such a way as to ensure, so far as reasonably practicable, the safety, health, and welfare at work of employees by failing to provide adequate appropriate equipment.