Who do you blame for… accidents?

The High Court, sitting in Ennis, Co. Clare, recently considered an Appeal from the Circuit Court in a case arising out of an accident in the workplace.

By way of background, the Plaintiff was employed by the Defendant at their Harvey’s Quay store in Limerick when, in June 2014, she hurt her eye whilst unpacking t-shirts from a cardboard box.

Citing ‘work pressures’ as the legal cause of the accident, she was awarded over €30k in compensation before the Circuit Court. The Defendants appealed.

Giving judgment for the Defendant in the High Court, Mr Justice Twomey held that the accident 'was her own fault':

It was not her employer's fault that she did this task inadvertently and bruised her eye in the process. If this accident had happened at home, it is likely that it would be regarded as an unfortunate accident arising from [her] lack of attention to her task because she was rushing or otherwise pre-occupied. Indeed, in such a scenario, [she] might have blamed herself for the accident.

This case highlights a common misconception in some claims for compensation.  To succeed, one must be able to ground fault in an ‘other’.  In the absence of fault, or where that fault properly lies with the injured party themselves, the claim can, and should, be expected to fail.

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Donnelly v. Dunnes Stores Limited (High Court, 17 May 2019)

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