Saturday 18 November 2017

GAA star left permanently disabled after slipping on grapes in Tesco has €1.4m damages reduced

Patricia Walsh, from Co Clare, leaving the High Court after a previous hearing. Photo: Collins Courts
Patricia Walsh, from Co Clare, leaving the High Court after a previous hearing. Photo: Collins Courts
Independent.ie Newsdesk

Independent.ie Newsdesk

A woman left permanently disabled with severe back and other injuries after slipping on grapes while shopping in a Tesco store has had her €1.43m damages award reduced to some €1.25m.

Patricia Walsh (48), a mother of two, from Carrigaholt, Co Clare, sued over her fall in the fruit section of the Tesco store at Kilrush, in August 2012. She hit the ground after her legs shot out from under her and was unable to get up afterwards.

Tesco admitted liability on the first day of the High Court hearing but disputed the sums claimed.

On the basis of medical and other evidence heard over seven days, Mr Justice Anthony Barr held she suffered severe physical and psychological injuries, including serious back and bladder injuries, leaving her "grossly disabled in all aspects of her life".

A former active sportswoman who had played GAA with Co Clare and Munster,  she cannot play sports and  will probably be unable to resume her work as a part-time secretary, he said.

He awarded some €1.43m but Tesco appealed that sum. A stay applied on the award pending appeal on condition €500,000 was paid out in advance, plus 75 per cent of her legal costs.

On Friday, the three judge Court of Appeal cut the award by about €182,000 on foot of various findings, including about the number of medical procedures to be funded into the future and on the appropriate interest rate applicable to future loss of earnings.

While accepting Tesco "to a certain extent" won its appeal, Ms Justice Mary Irvine said Ms Walsh was entitled to costs of the appeal.

That was for reasons including Tesco's failure to respond to a letter from Ms Walsh’s side last January, before the appeal hearing, offering to accept €1.2m instead of the €1.4m award. Had Tesco accepted that offer, Ms Walsh would have received less than the appeal court had decided she was entitled to, the judge noted.

Tesco, represented by Sean Lynch SC, argued Ms Walsh’s offer came when preparations for the appeal were well under way. Tesco wished to appeal for reasons including it considered the overall award too high and its concern about the possible impact of the High Court findings, including concerning interest rates, for other cases, he said.

Seeking Ms Walsh’s costs, Edward Walsh SC, with Pat Quinn SC, said the only engagement Tesco made with their side came very early on when it offered €400,000 to Ms Walsh.

Ms Justice Irvine said appeal outcome meant Ms Walsh had got more than she had offered to accept from Tesco. While that offer came late in the day, Tesco had said it intended to run the appeal to deal in effect with the rate of return RRR on investment income and had lost on that issue, she added.

In its judgment, the appeal court noted the High Court had found Ms Walsh would probably be unable to return to work and, arising from the significant Court of Appeal judgment in the Russell case concerning interest rates, assumed a 1.5 rate of return (RRR) for future pecuniary loss and 1 per cent for future loss of earnings.

Ms Justice Irvine rejected Tesco’s claim the High Court erred in assuming a 1.5 per cent RRR for future pecuniary loss but found the High Court erred in calculating the claim for future loss of earnings on the basis of a 1 per cent RRR as opposed to 1.5 per cent. That latter finding meant the future loss of earnings claim was reduced by about €40,000.

She cut the sum awarded for future urology procedures from €132,750 to €26,550 which, with other reductions cut the €1,439,495 award to €1,256,652.  

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