DAC Beachcroft Scotland's Casualty team successfully repudiated an employer's liability claim raised in the Court of Session and recovered expenses from the pursuer.
The pursuer was a cleaning operative who claimed for damages after rupturing his bicep at work. The defender was his employer. He said he had been cleaning a chill unit containing an industrial chest freezer. He said he was required to move the freezer in order to clean underneath it and attempted to manually handle the freezer without assistance and sustained injury as a result. His claim was for damages, loss of past and future earnings, disadvantage on the open labour market and services.
We attended the defender's premises in Fraserburgh to take detailed statements from those responsible for training and supervising the pursuer. This afforded us the opportunity to examine the freezer and make an assessment on whether or not somebody acting reasonably would have attempted to move it in the way the pursuer did. It was clear to us that the freezer was obviously of such an enormous size and weight that no reasonable person would try to move it unaided. We were informed that there would be approximately 50 other employees in close proximity to the pursuer at any time who he could have asked for assistance. Mechanical aids were also available. The pursuer had received extensive and well-documented manual handling training which clearly instructed trainees to assess loads before moving them. The freezer, when empty, was well in excess of double the maximum weight the pursuer had been trained to lift. When full it was closer to ten times that weight. The pursuer was not in a position to confirm the extent to which the freezer was filled at the material time. Quite apart from this, established that the pursuer had never been instructed to move the freezer and there was absolutely no requirement for him to do so in order to carry out his duties. On this basis, we maintained a robust defence throughout proceedings that the pursuer was on a frolic of his own and his employer could not be expected to accept responsibility for his injury.
This argument was successfully maintained. The pursuer's agents were persuaded to abandon the claim the week before it was set to proceed to a four day proof, with costs of £6,250.
This case illustrates that, where employers keep detailed records of suitable training schemes, they will be in a strong position to defend claims by employees who have failed to adhere to the systems in which they have been trained. It also goes to show that effective preparation of cases put us in an optimum position from which to negotiate attractive settlements. The overall saving to the insurer amounted to £123,500.