Public servant who fractured ankle after slipping on leaves at work car park awarded €75k

The judge rejected arguments by the Minister that, because there is a contract of indemnity between the Minister and Apelona, any liability in the matter must be ascribed to the company.
Public servant who fractured ankle after slipping on leaves at work car park awarded €75k

In a judgment this week, Mr Justice Max Barrett held, on the balance of probabilities, Shirley Farrell was correct in her view she must have slipped on leaves as she made her way to her car about 7pm that evening.

A woman who fractured her ankle after she slipped and fell in a car park at the offices in Co. Kildare where she worked has been awarded €75,000 damages by the High Court.

Shirley Farrell, a public servant, sued her employer, the Minister for the Agriculture and the Marine, and Apelona HSG Ltd, a company engaged as a facilities manager by the Minister, over the accident at the Backweston premises in Celbridge on October 22, 2015.

In a judgment this week, Mr Justice Max Barrett held, on the balance of probabilities, Ms Farrell was correct in her view she must have slipped on leaves as she made her way to her car about 7pm that evening.

When she left work, there were about 10 employees left in the very large building and no lights outside and she had to decide whether to proceed to her car, or find a security man, or return to her desk, power up her computer and send an email seeking assistance, he said.

She was able to make her way to her car, following exactly the same route she had followed for years previously to where it was parked, he said.

She stumbled as she reached the end of the 120-yard distance and fell because she could not see where she was going, slipping on something or other. Because she had mud on her tights, she believed one or more leaves had caused her to slip.

Judge's ruling

The judge said he considered that was consistent with the time of year and the mud on her tights.

While the evidence was that the car park is in physically pristine condition, her unchallenged evidence was that, on the night in question, the outside area and car park area were completely unlighted when she left work, the judge said.

He rejected arguments by the Minister that, because there is a contract of indemnity between the Minister and Apelona, any liability in this matter must be ascribed to the company.

He found a breach by the Minister, as employer of Ms Farrell, of the duty under section 15 of the Safety, Health and Welfare at Work Act 2015 to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, her place of work, and the means of access to and exit from that, is safe. He also found negligence by both defendants.

The consequences of Ms Farrell's slip

Ms Farrell, as a result of her fall, suffered a fractured ankle. It was initially treated with a below-knee plaster cast and crutches, followed by a walking boot immobilizer split and continued use of crutches.

She claimed, even after the boot was removed, she could not resume walking for pleasure until about May 2016, found long-distance walks no longer possible and was also unable to resume dancing due to her fear of landing wrongly on her ankle.

The judge found Ms Farrell had suffered a moderately severe fracture that has resolved but with ongoing pain and suffering and appeared to have suffered a significant loss of amenity in terms of her dancing and long-distance walking.

He considered her injuries were at the higher end of moderately severe and merited an award in damages of €75,000. He has also proposed to award costs to Ms Farrell unless the parties advise him they want to argue the costs issue. Final orders will be made later.

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