Dunnes worker awarded €82,000 for fall on frozen chip
Published 05/06/2014 | 17:01
A DUNNES Stores worker who injured her knee when she slipped on a frozen potato chip has been awarded over €82,000 by the High Court.
Ms Justice Mary Irvine said somebody had left these "hazardous items" on the floor of the kitchen area at Dunnes Stores, Clonmel, Co Tipperary and the company was vicariously liable for the negligence of that person.
Dorota Michalowska(29), Raheen Court, Clonmel, was pushing a trolley of dirty dishes in to the kitchens of the store when she felt her feet go from under her, the court heard.
The judge said Ms Michalowska in evidence said her knee immediately began to swell and she also noticed chips - three or four - on the floor. The chips seemed frozen and one was crushed.
The sales assistant, the judge said suffered six months of "significant incapacitation" and was out of work for 35 weeks as a result of her injuries.
"I think it was probable somebody dropped a few chips on the floor and failed to pick them up. They were frozen which suggests they were there for a short period of time. The balance of probabilities is that somebody other than Ms Michalowska dropped the chips," Ms Justice Irvine said.
Ms Michalowska had sued Dunnes as a result of her fall on July 14, 2011.
She claimed Dunnes failed to adequately or at all warn their staff of the existence of frozen chips on the floor and failed to provide a safe place and system of work.
Dunnes denied the claims and contended that if chips were dropped on the floor Ms Michalowska was most most likely to have dropped them as she was working in food production that day.
Making the award, Ms Justice Irvine said the issue in the case was who was responsible for the chips on the floor.
The judge said she had to decide who spilled the chips on the floor. If it was Ms Michalowska, then she was the author of her own misfortune but if it was another member of staff who did not pick up the chips, then the employer would be liable.
The evidence the judge said was that frozen chips were cooked off as requested by the customers.
Ms Justice Irvine said she found Ms Michalowska to be a credible witness and she was honest and reliable. The identity of who dropped the chips could have been any one of three staff working on that day , including Ms Michalowska.
"It was not disputed by the defendant that all of the staff used the fryer and swapped around."
The judge said the failure by Dunnes to call the third worker on the day to give evidence was surprising and she also took in to account that it was never suggested to Ms Michalowska during the company investigation that she dropped the chips.
Ms Justice Irvine said the kitchen of the Dunnes Stores would be a great credit to any food establishment and it was clear the company takes the safety of its employees very seriously and there was a clean up system in place.
However, she said, on the day the system failed maybe because somebody was under pressure.
The judge noted Ms Michaelowska is at risk of arthritis in the future.
She awarded a total of €82,750 made up of €40,000 general damages, €20,000 for pain and suffering in to the future and special damages of €22,750.
She also granted Dunnes Stores a stay in the event of an appeal providing Dunnes Stores pay out €52,750 to Ms Michalowska straight away.