Wednesday 18 October 2017

Agricultural machinery firm John Deere must pay €470,000 over injury of young man

Payout arises from a young man's legal action over serious injuries suffered
Payout arises from a young man's legal action over serious injuries suffered

An agricultural machinery company must pay out some €470,000 arising from a young man's legal action over serious injuries suffered while trying to clear a blockage in a combine harvester.

A three judge Supreme Court unanimously upheld findings of negligence against John Deere Ltd (JDL) in designing, manufacturing and selling a combine harvester, model 6810, which the court found was subject to a design fault relating to the location of the opening designed for clearance of blockages.

Denis Scollard was 22 in summer 1995 when the fingers of his left hand were crushed after, it was claimed, paddles came down inside the chute of the combine harvester while he was trying to clear a grass blockage in the machine.

Mr Scollard sued his then employers, agricultural contractors Thomas and William Wright, who settled that case for €430,000.

The Wrights then sued AIB Finance & Leasing and Geary's Garage Ltd which respectively leased and supplied the harvester to them.  In turn, those defendants  sought an indemnity from JDL as manufactuer and supplier of the harvester.

After the High Court ruled they were entitled to that indemnity, JDL appealed to the Supreme Court.

Giving the Supreme Court judgment, Mr Justice Frank Clarke upheld the High Court's findings of negligence by JDL in designing, manufacturing and selling a combine harvester with a design defect.

He agreed with the High Court the injuries suffered by Mr Scolland were a foreseeable consequence of that negligence and ruled JDL must pay the €430,000 secured by Mr Wright, plus another €40,000 legal costs.

The judge noted a 400 page manual supplied with the harvester included a one page summary which made clear work should not be done on the machine while the engine was running or if someone was in the cab.

 It was accepted blockages occurred which had to be cleared by a person crawling between two side wheels of the harvester, opening the inspection hatch and gaining access to any grass causing the blockage.

Mr Justice Clarke said there was a clear dispute as to how the accident happened but the High Court was entitled to conclude it happened as Mr Scollard and two eye witnesses had claimed.

The judge also noted experts for JDL insisted the accident could not have happened as alleged and argued there was no scientific basis to explain how the paddles could have moved unless the engine was engaged.

The eyewitnesses insisted it happened as alleged and their medical experts also argued, had the engine been running, Mr Scollard's injuries would have been different and almost certainly much more severe.

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