Woman Walks Into Lift Door at Work and Sues Her Employer for Personal Injuries

differential costs order

This personal injuries case involves a woman who worked in Abbott Ireland in Clonmel since 1999 and who injured her head as she entered a lift at her workplace in 2014. She was speaking with a colleague as she entered a lift and was looking away from the lift doors towards her colleague.

The woman, Geraldine O’Grady, gave evidence that she expected the lift sensor to prevent the door from closing on her and that she had previously heard a voice over would give a warning that the doors were closing. She was struck on the head by a lift door and suffered a haemotoma (a localized bleeding outside of blood vessels).

Ms O’Grady went on holidays shortly after this incident and suffered headaches and had bruising on her face. When she went back to work she suffered from loss of concentration and headaches.

She also claimed to have suffered from post-concussion syndrome, post-traumatic stress, flashbacks, feared she was going to die, and her confidence was affected.

High Court personal injuries action

Ms O’Grady brought High Court personal injury proceedings claiming the employer was negligent, had failed to provide a safe place of work, had failed to provide a safe system of work, had breached health and safety regulations, and breached the contract of employment.

She claimed the employer was negligent by reason of its failure to have the lift emit a sound when the doors were closing, the lift doors were an excessive width, and so forth.

Justice Creedon’s decision

Justice Creedon found that only 40% of lifts nationwide are fitted with voice warnings. She also held:

“Beyond the home, doors are part of everyday life and automatic doors are no exception. They are commonplace in buildings of every nature. Automatic doors are encountered in every type of public building including hospitals, schools, courts and offices.”

She found the employer was not negligent and that Abbott was not in breach of the reasonably practicable test by reason of its failure to locate a sensor on the outer doors.

The Health Safety and Welfare at Work act 2005 provides that the employer must take whatever steps are ‘reasonably practicable’ for section 8 provides, inter alia,

8.—(1) Every employer shall ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, the safety, health and welfare at work of his or her employees. (Section 8 Safety, Health and Welfare at Work Act, 2005).(Reading the full section 8 will give a good idea of the employer’s duties under this act).

In summary Justice Creedon held that the injuries sustained by Ms O’Grady were by reason of her own inadvertence and failure to pay attention when entering the lift.

Absolute duty on employers?

Justice Creedon rejected the argument that there was an absolute duty on employers to ensure the safety of employees and referred to section 8 (1) (set out above) referring to the employer’s duty to ‘ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable’ the safety of employees.

She also pointed to the employee’s obligations for her own safety set out in section 13 of the Safety, Health and Welfare at Work Act, 2005.

This case is Geraldine O’Grady –v- Abbott Ireland [2019] IEHC 79.

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