An ESB worker who slipped on a set of stairs, while collecting his post, has had his €110,000 compensation award rescinded by the Courts of Appeal (CoA). 63 year old network technician, Terence Morgan was awarded this in 2018.
Mr Morgan was collecting post from the ESB offices in Avenue Road, County Louth on 30 April 2013. He fell on the stairs at the two-storey offices. Part of his duties was collecting post to bring down to a franking machine, as well as his technical duties.
The ESB denied negligence and contested the case. But, Ms Justice Bronagh O’Hanlon awarded Mr Morgan €110,000. This was awarded on the grounds that he did not get specific training in the task of collecting post.
On the date in question, Mr Morgan stepped from the landing to the first step on the lower flight of stairs. Suddenly, his feet went from underneath him, before falling down several steps. Mr Morgan injured his shoulder in the fall, and was unable to work for 4 months.
At the time, Ms Justice O’Hanlon ruled in court that Mr Morgan’s fall resulted from the nosing of the steps. She also pointed to the fact that they were wet, whether from a spillage or a leak in an overhead skylight as a contributing factor to Mr Morgan’s accident.
She called the accident, “reasonably forseeable”.
Ms Justice O’Hanlon also said that even though, Mr Morgan was carrying parcels in both hands at the time, it did not amount to contributory negligence on his part, compared to the lack of specific training.
However, Mr Justice Seamus Noonan overturned this ruling at the CoA.
Speaking on behalf of a three judge CoA, Mr Noonan said that Mr Morgan had failed to mention that the leaking skylight over the stairs may have caused them to be wet. He said that Mr Morgan did not mention this at an investigation meeting or in an internal ESB investigation report.
The judge called this “an extraordinary omission and one that the plaintiff was entirely unable to explain”.
Mr Justice Noonan also described Mr Morgan’s failure to mention that he mopped up the wetness after the accident as “equally extraordinary”.
The judge also said that specific training was never a key factor in this case.
Mr Noonan added, “Training was mentioned only in “the most general terms” in the court summons and certainly not in any way that would alert the ESB to any complaint about his training”.
He also said, “Mr Morgan himself conceded there was no issue as far as he was concerned about his training”.
Court of Appeal rules no breach of legislation:
In court, Mr Justice Noonan further ruled that there was also no evidence to substantiate the trial judge’s ruling that a breach of health and safety at work legislation had taken place in this case.
Mr Justice Maurice Collins said in a concurring statement that the High Court’s findings of liability could not be allowed to stand, calling it unsustainable.
The original ruling was subsequently overturned.