The claimant, a 40-year-old woman, received £47,500 for the injuries sustained when she fell down steps at work in June 2007. She suffered chronic pain syndrome and blurred vision, a whiplash type injury to her neck and soft tissue injuries to her back and ribs.  She was off work for six weeks and was expected to have an ongoing disadvantage on the open labour market in relation to jobs requiring physical strength.

Claimant

Female: 34 years old at date of accident; 40 years old at date of settlement.

Employers' Liability: On June 29, 2007, on arrival at work at 6.30am at the sandwich bar of the defendant (D), the claimant (C) went down the stairs leading to the basement where sandwiches were prepared, carrying an empty bread tray. The stairs were steep and made of wood, and were covered in a linoleum-type material with a rubber strip on the edge of each step. The rubber strips were missing on a number of steps. As C descended the stairs, she slipped on the exposed metal revealed by the missing rubber strip, on the fifth step from the bottom. The rubber strips had been removed by D some weeks previously after C had complained that the rubber strips were coming lose and were unsafe.

As C fell she reached out to grab the handrail with her left hand. She fell forward and cracked the left side of her ribs on the left-hand banister and jarred her back. The right side of her ribs hit off the bread tray as it was caught between her body and the wall. Her head was thrown violently forward and she immediately felt dazed. Her head was spinning and her ribs were painful. 

C felt sick and began repeatedly to vomit. She requested to go home due to her injuries but was advised she could not do so until D's wife arrived to replace her.  C was made to work sitting on a stool in the basement making sandwiches. She occasionally needed to get up to go to the toilet to vomit. At midday D's wife arrived and C was allowed to go home. 

The following day C continued to feel unwell but was obliged to work a full shift before being allowed to leave. During her shift C was allowed to sit on a stool by the counter to serve customers. C attended hospital that day. She was advised that she had suffered a concussion and a whiplash-type injury to her neck and back and had possibly fractured her ribs. On July 6, 2007 C attended her GP, by which time her neck was very sore and she was getting severe headaches. She was signed off work for two weeks.

C sustained injury and brought an action against D alleging that it was negligent in (i) breaching the Workplace (Health Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992 reg.12(1) in that the steps were not of a construction suitable for the purpose for which they had been used, namely that by reason of the missing strips the steps had become uneven and dangerous; (ii) removing the rubber strips prior to the accident; (iii) breaching its duty under the Occupiers' Liability Act 1957 s.2 to take reasonable care for C whilst she was at work; (iv) failing to provide a safe place of work. 

Liability disputed.

Injuries

C suffered from a whiplash-type injury to her neck, upper back pain, soft tissue injuries to her ribs and an adjustment disorder with depression and anxiety.

Effects

C had Chinese massage to assist with her neck and back pain. The cafe usually closed during August and C returned to her native Poland where she arranged private treatment including physiotherapy. In September 2007 her GP organised physiotherapy in England and C underwent approximately 10 sessions. In all, C was off work for six weeks during the first six months following the accident. 

C required assistance from her flat mate with domestic tasks, including cooking cleaning, washing and shopping.

Following the Christmas break at the end of 2007 C remained in Poland until January 21, 2008 on the advice of her doctors. She was diagnosed as suffering with chronic pain syndrome. C also continued to suffer with blurred vision for six months. Her headaches persisted thereafter. Due to her ongoing symptoms C was restricted in her duties in the cafe. She was unable to lift heavy objects or undertake tasks such as mopping the floor as repetitive movement aggravated her symptoms. In August 2009, after the tenancy on her flat expired, she returned to Poland.  Initially following the accident C had extensive private treatment in Poland, where the costs were much lower, during her holidays. However, after returning home in August 2009 she was unable to pay for further treatment as she was not working. 

C was unable to find work in Poland. Her search was exacerbated by the fact that her ongoing injuries meant she was restricted in the work she could seek, and heavy lifting and repetitive movements aggravated her back and shoulders. Her mother continued to provide care and assistance, undertaking the domestic cooking cleaning, washing and shopping.

C unsuccessfully attempted to return to London in October 2010, seeking work, and she did so again in September 2011. She subsequently obtained work in a number of cafes and restaurants but found the physical aspects of the jobs caused her a lot of pain. If she had to lift cases of bottles or mop the floor she found that aggravated her neck and shoulder pain. In addition, she found that her memory had been affected and that her ability to retain information was severely limited. 

In January 2012 C attended her GP and was prescribed antidepressants. She attended a counsellor for her psychological symptoms. However, at the end of July 2012 she returned to Poland as she could no longer afford to remain in the United Kingdom as she was only working part-time.

Prognosis: it was expected that, after undergoing a pain management programme including cognitive behaviour therapy, C's symptoms would significantly improve and that she would be fit for work. However, she was expected to have an ongoing disadvantage on the open labour market in relation to jobs requiring physical strength.

Out of Court Settlement

£47,000 total damages

Background to damages: C's pain management specialist and her psychiatrist agreed that a pain management programme would be appropriate, including cognitive behaviour therapy. C's psychiatrist advised on completion of approximately 15 sessions of cognitive behaviour therapy he would expect a very significant improvement in her symptoms within a month and thereafter she should be fit to work. C's orthopaedic surgeon advised that she had an ongoing disadvantage on the open labour market in relation to jobs requiring physical strength.

The case was settled on a global basis with no particular breakdown of damages. However, the following breakdown was estimated by the claimant's solicitors:

Breakdown of General Damages: Pain, suffering and loss of amenity: £13,000; Future loss of earnings: £10,000; Future medical expenses: £4,000.

Breakdown of Special Damages: Past loss of earnings: £17,000; Past gratuitous care costs: £2,000; Past travel and incidental expenses: £700; Past medical expenses: £800.

Body Part

RIB - CHEST - BONE - RIB, LEFT - LEFT RIB - BACK - SPINE - SPINAL COLUMN - LUMBAR - NECK

Condition

WHIPLASH-TYPE INJURY - CONCUSSION - VOMITING - POSSIBLE RIB FRACTURE - BLURRED VISION - CHRONIC PAIN SYNDROME - MEMORY PROBLEMS

Stephen Glynn instructed by Russell-Cooke LLP for the claimant. DAC Beachcroft Claims Ltd for the defendant.

LTLPI 5/7/2013 (Unreported elsewhere)

This Quantum Report was provided courtesy of Daniel O'Keeffe of [DOCLINK DOC= http://www.russell-cooke.co.uk/ TEXT=Russell-Cooke LLP], solicitor for the claimant.

EMPLOYERS' LIABILITY