Thursday 18 January 2018

Prisoner who suffered 'dreadful injuries' at steel-cutter in Wheatfield loses claim for damages

Wheatfield Prison
Wheatfield Prison

Ray Managh

A prisoner, who suffered "dreadful injuries" to his left hand while operating a steel-cutting guillotine in Wheatfield Prison, has lost a claim for damages against the State.

Mr Justice Bernard Barton said in a reserved judgment today Tuesday that Felix Moorehouse had lost the tips of all of the fingers on his hand when he had caused the blade of the machine to descend on it by pressing the operation pedal.

The judge told barrister Kevin D’Arcy, counsel for the Minister for Justice and the prison, that even had the court held in favour of Mr Moorehouse he would have been found guilty of significant contributory negligence.

"He would have had to bear by far the largest proportion of fault," Judge Barton said.

Having found that the injuries had not been caused by any negligence or breach of duty on the part of the authorities, he held that an assessment for damages did not fall for consideration.  The judge said he considered Mr Moorehouse’s account of what had happened in the seconds immediately before the incident to be unlikely.

Judge Barton told barrister Richard Wixted, who appeared with Burns Nowlan solicitors for Mr Moorehouse, that he would be handing down a detailed written judgment in the new Michaelmas law term and time within which to serve any appeal would not begin running until then.

Moorehouse (34) of Galloping Green Road, Stillorgan, Co Dublin, had told the court during a 29-day trial that in November 2008, while an inmate in Wheatfield, he was participating in a training programme.

He had been cutting metal with a guillotine steel cutter when his left hand had become caught in the cutter and he suffered an amputation of the index, middle, ring and little fingers of his left hand.

He had been taken by ambulance to Tallaght Hospital and then to St James’ where he had unsuccessfully undergone replantation of the index, middle and ring fingers with terminalisation of the little finger at the end joint.

Moorehouse had undergone secondary operative procedures for terminalisation of the index, middle and ring fingers.  He had suffered considerable post-operative pain and had been discharged for follow-up with the hand therapy and plastic surgery clinics.

The court was told Moorehouse had suffered a severe, irreparable mutilating injury to his hand which long term would leave him with permanent mutilated appearance, a very considerable loss of hand function and the likelihood of chronic pain and discomfort in the amputation stumps.  

All areas of his hand function would be severely affected with an inability to grip a tool or knife or fork.

Moorehouse had claimed he had been under the influence of a controlled drug, Methadone, administered by the prison authorities while taking part in the training programme.

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