Friday 21 October 2016

Kim Bielenberg: Compo for sex on the job, lost trousers and a man bitten by own dog

Published 17/12/2012 | 17:56

IT is a ruling that will bring some comfort to those who like to enjoy themselves on work trips. And it may enhance the reputation of civil servants everywhere.

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An Australian public servant injured while having sex in a hotel room while she was “on business” has won the latest round in a battle for compensation.

In what seems to have been an enthusiastic encounter, a light fitting was torn from its mount above the bed and landed on her face, injuring the civil servant on her nose and mouth.

In an earlier ruling that has now been upheld, a judge said, "If the applicant had been injured while playing a game of cards in her motel room, she would be entitled to compensation…”

In fairness though, one wonders whether a game of cards could cause serious injuries. Could you injure yourself with over-enthusiastic shuffling?

The ruling in favour of compensation for sex on the job is likely to join the pantheon of colourful claims, not all of them upheld.

We have a history of this kind of litigation, and the cases can be expensive for companies and public bodies.

Some years ago Dublin city council received a claim for compensation from a man who was bitten by his own dog.

The animal had received an electric shock after it peed against a city council lamp post. The stunned mutt then bit his owner, and he sued. In this case the council won.

Supermacs, the burger chain, decided to fight what it felt to be spurious compo claims over the past decade, and has enjoyed some success in stopping the practice of “slipping and suing”

In a performance worthy of an Oscar a Supermacs customer in Galway was famously filmed rehearsing a fall with his pals in the toilets.

Graveyards have even been vulnerable to litigation with claims of mourners tumbling into graves

At times going to court at the drop of a hat over a mishap, whether it is genuine or otherwise, has seemed like a national pastime.

But we are still in the ha’penny place when compared to American litigants.

For many years the Stella Awards gave recognition to individuals who made noteworthy claims, and awards that, at times, seemed outrageous.

They are named after the now legendary Stella Liebeck, who bought a takeaway coffee at McDonald’s, placed the cup between her thighs and – surprise,surprise – burnt herself. The court initially awarded damages against McDonald’s of €2.2m but these were later reduced.

Some cases seem entirely disproportionate. The most failure was that of Roy Pearson who sought compensation of €49m in a court action after a local dry cleaners lost his trousers.

He said the compo was for “mental suffering, inconvenience and discomfort”, and one had to feel for him.

He eventually lost.

Some of the alleged claims made to Irish insurance companies are bizarre and are widely circulated by those working in the industry.

- “Coming home, I drove into the wrong house and collided with a tree I don't have.''

- ”The accident happened because I had one eye on the lorry in front, one eye on the pedestrian and the other on the car behind.''

In one famous case, a claimant had been in collision with a cow. Here's an extract from the claim form:

Question: What warning was given by you? Answer: Horn

Question: What warning was given by the other party? Answer: Moo.

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