An employee who suffered burn injuries when trying to start a barbecue at a company party was awarded €20,000 plus costs when he sued his former bosses at Naas Circuit Court recently.
Initially, Judge Terry O’Sullivan awarded Darren Brennan €30, 000 but then ruled that as he was partially responsible for the accident the award was being reduced by a third.
Brennan had sued Casey and Nally, SuperValu in Kilcock arising from the incident which took place at the store’s first anniversary celebrations in September 2017.
In evidence, Brennan, who was then a trainee manager at the store, but now operates a Centra store in Athlone, claimed the barbecue had failed to ignite properly and when it did a large flame flew out hitting him on his face and right hand.
He said that the equipment for the event was supplied by Carty Meats in Athlone and that he travelled down to collect it a few days earlier along with a work colleague another trainee manager, Tommy Barcoe.
Conflicting evidence was given on whether or not the two men were shown how to operate the barbecue, Brennan was adamant they had not been while when he took the stand Barcoe insisted a brief explanation on how to operate and ignite it was given.
Barcoe also told the court that initially he was meant to operate the equipment but that on the day Brennan took over and eventually when it lit there a large bang and flash which the plaintiff took the impact of.
Brennan said he had a smaller barbecue at home and knew how it should work. He also claimed there was no risk assessment plan in place on the day.
A dispute also arose over whether or not a risk assessment plan was in place on the day, Brennan believed there was not but defence solicitors produced one.
When he realised he had been burned he went off and put some frozen peas to ease the pain which he claimed to be extremely painful and later got some ointments and Aloe Vera oil to deal with the pain himself.
Under cross-examination, he admitted he had said he attended a doctor on the day in question but now accepted this was not the case.
He attended an appointment with his GP eight months later in April 2018 and he had not been to a doctor on the day it happened, telling Judge O’ Sullivan, ‘I was afraid, afraid to go to the doctor. I was afraid what the outcome would be.’
Brennan then submitted a report from a specialist Professor Carroll compiled some four years after the accident affirming that he did have burns to the right hand and there maybe suggestions of sensitivity to the hand.
Summing up Judge O’Sullivan explained that in a situation of employers to employees employers have a duty of care.
He stated ‘It is a very high level of duty of care and often employees lack common sense and prudence.
‘This is a classic case of an employee left in a situation without instruction, the employer should have spoken to the employee, but that didn’t happen.
‘The truth was, the demonstration was rushed. I don’t believe they knew how to use it.
I accept Mr Brennan was enthusiastic; he took control Mr Barcoe did not take control.
‘The thing didn’t work properly there was gas coming from it.
‘The plaintiff must succeed but equally as he knew how to operate a barbecue he has a duty of care for himself. It was foolish to keep going. He has some responsibility here.
‘Given this view, I find 1/3 of the responsibility lies on him,2/3 on the employer. I am satisfied he has a nasty injury. He treated himself. He does have a problem, an irritation or the skin is always dry. Professor Carroll says his complaint is reasonable.’
He granted the defence a stay of ten days to appeal to a higher court