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Judge dismisses claim worker's thumb injury was worsened by 'his daughter tugging it', awards him €23,000

Robert Owczarek had injured his right thumb while stacking crates at Dunnes Stores in the Ashleaf Shopping Centre in January 2016.
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Source: Shutterstock

A MAN HAS been awarded over €23,000 in damages after the Circuit Court ruled his former employer was liable for a thumb injury he had sustained while lifting crates.

As part of his ruling, Circuit Court president Justice Raymond Groarke has dismissed suggestions that the pain in the man’s thumb had been greatly exacerbated by his three-year-old daughter tugging it during his recovery.

“I find it difficult in coming to a determination that the plaintiff’s injuries related more to the action of a little three-year-old girl than to his injury at work,” Groarke said yesterday.

The judge said that while Robert Owczarek’s painful thumb may on one occasion have had the unwelcome attention of his daughter he could not see that the child’s actual movement could have caused her father’s ongoing painful symptoms which were quite serious.

Barrister Paul Gallagher, counsel for Owczarek, rejected the suggestion of counsel for Dunnes Stores, Owczarek’s employer at the time of the incident, that his client had suffered minimal symptoms following the accident until he had “an unfortunate incident” with his daughter.

36-year-old Owczarek of Dublin 8 told Gallagher, who appeared with Anderson Gallagher Solicitors, he had been a sales assistant with Dunnes at Ashleaf Shopping Centre, Walkinstown, Dublin.

Stacking crates

On 21 January 2016 he had been stacking crates of juice on shelves in a storage area when his right thumb had been pulled backwards after the caps of the bottles got caught.

Gallagher claimed that Owczarek’s injury had been caused by negligence on the part of Dunnes which, he said, had failed to provide a safe place of work for his client and an adequate system of training.

Owczarek, who is right hand dominant, said he suffered a hyperabduction of his thumb and immediately felt pain. He had gone to the accident and emergency department at St James’s Hospital where he had an x-ray which revealed no fracture.

His thumb had then been put in a splint.

Owczarek told the court that his daughter had accidentally pulled his thumb, causing him sudden serious pain, but prior to this he had been unhappy with the healing process and had seen an orthopaedic hand specialist in St James’s in mid-2016 on foot of that unhappiness. He had also undergone physiotherapy treatment.

Owczarek said he had been unable to return to work since the accident but was now available and looking for a job. He was not making any claim for loss of earnings.

Groarke, holding 100% for Owczarek on liability, awarded him €23,180 damages and costs.

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