What makes the claim interesting is not the modest level of damages but the application of the law that made the case into a winner.
The claimant is a manager at a trade warehouse which, amongst its products sells wine & beer. The claimant was unfortunate enough to be walking close to a forklift truck which was carrying cases of beer on a pallet which fractured , causing the cases to fall onto the client and injuring her.
Following a letter of claim to the insurers for the warehouse, liability was strongly denied, with the insurers advancing various arguments by way of a defence including:-
- That the claim should be against the manufacturers of the pallet and not the employer.
- An examination of the pallet probably would not have revealed its defective condition so the employer could not have found the defect or foreseen the risk of it injuring the client.
- It was the lady’s fault for walking near the forklift truck as she should have known that doing so carried a risk of injury.
The denial was rejected and we replied pointing out that the pallet wais “work equipment” covered by the Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998, known to us as ” PUWER”. A causative breach of the Regulations renders an employer “strictly liable” (that’s lawyer-speak for; no if’s, no buts, it’s your fault). Regulation 5 of PUWER says that an employer has to keep work equipment in efficient working order & good repair. The interesting thing is that the employer would still have been liable for the injury even if they’d inspected the pallet and had not discovered the defect because the very fact that the pallet fractured shows it wasn’t in good repair.
Court proceedings were issued and at that point the insurers backed down & the matter settled with the client receiving her damages in full without deduction as her legal costs were also paid.
The case was won by our knowing the law, how to apply it, & being prepared to stand up to a big insurer on behalf of our client.
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