[2012] IEHC 21 - Cross J.

Plaintiff awarded €90k for back injuries related to a manual handing accident and psychological injuries arising out of a bullying and harassment in the workplace.  

Facts

The Plaintiff was employed in the Defendant’s hospital in Tralee. She alleged that she sustained an injury to her back while she was lifting bundles of hospital records.  She further alleged that, following that accident, she was subjected to bullying, harassment, abuse, intimidation and discrimination in the course of her employment.  

Judgment

Cross J accepted that the Plaintiff had not been provided with any manual handling training.  He also accepted that, had the Plaintiff been properly trained, her injury would probably not have been sustained. He found the Defendant negligent and in breach of its statutory duty to the Plaintiff and awarded the Plaintiff a sum of €30,000 in respect of her back injury.

In relation to the Plaintiff's allegations of bullying and harassment, Cross J accepted the Plaintiff’s evidence regarding various incidents and events which has occurred after the Plaintiff’s back injury was sustained and held that the conduct on the part of the Defendant in their dealing with the Plaintiff constituted “corporate bullying”, which was motivated by hostility towards the Plaintiff. Cross J accepted that the Plaintiff had sustained an “injury” as opposed to normal stress and awarded her a sum of €60,000 in respect of her psychiatric injury.

Comment

In his Judgment, Cross J made reference to a number of key cases where the issues relating to bullying and harassment claims had previously been considered. Cross J referred to the important principles which emerged from the case of Sutton v Hatton in the UK and Maher v Jabail Services Limited in this jurisdiction. Having analysed the principles in Maher v Jabil, Cross J found that the Plaintiff had suffered an injury as opposed to ordinary occupational stress, that the injury was attributable to the work place and that the harm suffered was reasonably foreseeable by the Defendant.  In that regard, the Plaintiff’s claim met the criteria as set out in Maher v Jabil Service Limited and the Plaintiff was therefore entitled to succeed against the Defendant.

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