An ESB network technician who came across a 10,000 kilovolt live electric cable when he was repairing a street light has been awarded €83,000 for nervous shock by the High Court.
Warren Harford, Ms Justice Bronagh O’Hanlon said, did not suffer physical injuries but there was no doubt that he suffered a shock and found it to be a horrifying experience.
The shock, the judge said was a very bad one which caused both PTSD and depression.
She added that it was quite clear the nervous shock was caused by the ESB’s negligent act or omissions towards Mr Harford.
She said he certainly apprehended injury if not death to himself in the incident in which he was exposed directly to the 10,000 kilovolt live cable.
Mr Harford (45) had sued his employer for nervous shock as a result of the incident as he repaired a Dublin street light on December 14, 2014 after he was directed to use a cable identification machine which he claimed wasn’t the usual machine he used.
Mr Harford had claimed he was caused to handle and to be exposed to 10,000 kilovolt electric cable and that he suffered a medically recognised psychiatric injury which is ongoing although he did not suffer physical injuries in the incident.
The ESB had admitted negligence in December 2018 and accepted the machine provided to Mr Harford was unsafe and unsuitable and Mr Harford was not trained in its use. However the nervous shock claim was, the judge said, strenuously defended.
The judge said Mr Harford gave evidence he was in an excavated hole that he had used the machine, cut off the electricity supply and stripped down a cable. Something caught his eye and did not look right so he felt around the cable and found three cores indicating that it was in fact a 10,000 kilovolt cable.
'A recognisable psychiatric injury'
Mr Harford reported the incident at the highest classification of dangerous level of incident and confirmed to the court if one sticks a test probe in a medium voltage 10,000 kilovolt cable it would burn a person, explode or result in death.
Ms Justice O’Hanlon said it is clearly the case on the medical evidence that Mr Harford suffered a recognisable psychiatric injury.
The judge added that given the failure to adequately protect and train Mr Harford in relation to the use of the identification machine, which was later removed from use, this was a reasonably foreseeable event.
The event, Ms Justice O’Hanlon, said had a very detrimental effect on Mr Harford and he now works in a sales area in the ESB. The judge said she had no reason to doubt Mr Harford’s credibility or earnestness.
Mr Harford the judge concluded continues to suffer from recognisable psychiatric injury and his PTSD and/ or depression were induced by the shock of his exposure to the 10,000 kilovolt cable.
A duty of care not to cause reasonably foreseeable injury was owed by the ESB to Mr Harford, the judge said.