School canteen assistant who sliced wrist open while drying a 'Miss Piggy' mug to get almost £30k in damages
Published 15/10/2015 | 16:20
A school canteen assistant who sliced open her wrist while drying a 'Miss Piggy' mug is to receive nearly £30,000 in damages, a High Court judge ruled today.
Mr Justice Deeney awarded the payout to Catherine Rooney after deciding that cleaning the cup fell within regulations on work equipment.
Finding for her on liability, he said: "This lady was a canteen assistant and this was part of her work."
Mrs Rooney sued after sustaining a serious laceration to her left wrist in an accident at St Anne's Primary School, Derry in March 2011.
She had been washing up in the kitchen area and took off her gloves to dry crockery.
The court heard that the handle on a mug branded 'Miss Piggy' broke off and sliced into her lower arm, damaging a tendon.
She later underwent surgery on her injuries at the Ulster Hospital in Dundonald and was off work for about a year.
In her action against the Western Education and Library Board it was accepted that her induction training did not include using gloves while drying items.
The claim centred on whether Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations (Northern Ireland) 1999 applied to her case.
Mrs Rooney's lawyers argued that a cup does constitute equipment, while the defendant contended that it did not come within a list of work tools.
Ruling on the action, Mr Justice Deeny held that pots, pans, cups and glasses being used to provide food and drink at the school fell within the regulations.
"The defendant may not have been obliged to provide a canteen at its school but having done so it obviously provides food and beverages in that canteen, serviced by a kitchen, and it does so to staff and pupils," he said.
"This plaintiff cleaning the cup in question was using it, as part of the equipment of the kitchen as it had become, in her capacity as an employee of the defendant at her work."
On that basis he held the defendant liable for breach of statutory duty.
Dealing with the level of pay-out Mrs Rooney is entitled to, the judge noted she has been left with a permanent scar.
He made an award of £25,000 general damages, plus a further £1,944 in special damages.
Loss of earnings put at just under £3,776 also featured in the outcome, along with interest and legal costs for the plaintiff.