In many Personal Injury Claims, where the Plaintiff (Accident Victim) claims that they are suffering from a particular back ailment, particularly where the Plaintiff is approaching their 60’s, the tendency for Insurance Company Representatives is to claim that the Plaintiff is simply suffering from a “bad back”; that because he is getting older, he is suffering from degeneration of his lumbar discs and adjoining facet joints and that he was going to be suffering from pain anyway!
This is certainly the Defence which was raised by the Defendant`s Insurers again in the case of Patrick Ryan (Plaintiff) -v- Queally Pig Slaughtering Unit  IEHC 732, where Judgement was delivered by Mr. Justice Tony O’ Connor on the 21st December 2022.
The Plaintiff had worked for the Defendant from 2003. He had always been in good health. In April 2017, the Plaintiff started work at 6.30am and moved to the “VAC PAC” area at around 7.30am. There he interchanged on a regular basis with a fellow employee for the repetitive task of twisting and lifting bags of pork, which could weigh up to 25 kilograms and more. He was expected to undertake overtime work, which meant that he could work until 5pm Monday to Friday. As noted by the Judge, the work was hard and with time limited breaks. The Plaintiff’s case was that he sustained injury by reason of the constant pressure on his back and that the system of work was unsafe. The Defendants maintained that the system was safe.
On the 13th April 2017, the Plaintiff, after a 15 minute break at 10.00am, returned to the “VAC PAC” section and experienced an awful pain in his central mid lower back area when swinging over one of the bags.
While the Plaintiff was anxious to continue working, the extent of his injury as reported lead the Judge to state that the Plaintiff’s previously fulfilled life had deteriorated drastically since the incident in April 2017.
The evidence given by the Plaintiff’s Medical Representatives was that the Plaintiff has “facet dysfunction”. While he had received injections into the facet joints, the medical view was that such injections would not achieve any long-term benefit and nor would the Plaintiff benefit from surgical procedures in the future. He had been advised against considering a spinal cord stimulator.
On the day on which the Plaintiff gave his evidence in Court he was on an opiod, anti-spasm medication, tablets for blood pressure in addition to his daily dose of 8 paracetamol.
The Judge noted that the theme pursued in the Defendant was that the Plaintiff had what is colloquially termed as a “bad back”. The Defendant contended that due to the deterioration of his lumbar discs and adjoining facet joints, the Plaintiff was going to have pain anyway which he now endures, regardless as to the incident.
Evidence given by the Plaintiff’s Occupational Therapist and Vocational Evaluator was that the Plaintiff was not now fit for any job which required bending, stooping, carrying or lifting weights of any significance. The Judge also noted that the toll of the Plaintiff’s pain was indeed visible on his face and in his posture. He respectfully commented that the Plaintiff was “not a young looking 60 year old”.
The Judge made the following award:
|Past Loss of Earnings||€130,000|
|Future Loss of Earnings||€120,000|
|Agreed Special Damages||€ 5,536|
Assessment of General Damages
The Decision in this case was of course based on High Court Proceedings which were issued before the implementation of the new Personal Injury Guidelines in April 2021, where the Judge relied on the Book of Quantum published by PIAB in 2016, as an aid to the Court. He assessed the injury to be within the most severe category of “back injuries and spinal fractures”, noting that the Plaintiff had undoubted serious limitation of movement and pain, which surgery could not alleviate.
He would have ongoing pain and stiffness in the long term.
Sometime a “facet dysfunction” is not just simply a “bad back”!
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- The 7 immediate Steps I must take if I`m involved in a Road Traffic Accident: Morgan-McManus-7-Steps-To-Take-After-a-Car-Accident.pdf (morganmcmanus.com)
- The 7 immediate Steps I must take if I have been involved in a Workplace Accident: 7-Steps-to-Take-After-a-Workplace-Accident.pdf (morganmcmanus.com)
- Do I need a Solicitor when filing a PIAB Personal Injury Claim?: Do-I-need-a-Solicitor-when-filing-a-PIAB-Personal-Injury-Claim-FINAL.pdf (morganmcmanus.com)
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