The Court of Appeal has reduced a damages award made in favour of a chef in a supermarket kitchen who was injured in a gas explosion from €93,000 to €63,000.
The High Court ruled last year that Agnieszka Zaganczyk’s employer, John Pettitt Wexford Unlimited Co, and gas installer C&M Delaney Ltd, of Clonard, Co Wexford, should pay her more than €90,000 in damages over injuries sustained in an incident at Supervalu, Customs House Quay, Wexford on January 12th, 2020.
Ms Zaganczyk (47), a Polish national who lived at Pineridge, Wexford, suffered burns to her face, neck, ear, left hand and left forearm in the incident and was out of work for several months. She also suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) following the explosion.
The matter went before the High Court for an assessment of damages only after liability was admitted.
However, the defendants appealed the award, claiming the level of damages was excessive, disproportionate and not in line with High Court guidelines on personal injuries payments.
In a written judgement, the three-judge appeal court, comprised of Mr Justice Seamus Noonan, Mr Justice Robert Haughton and Mr Justice Senan Allen, agreed that the level of damages should be reduced.
Mr Justice Noonan said the High Court had erred in its approach to the assessment of the plaintiff’s injuries, particularly her psychiatric injuries. The High Court, he said should not have treated her PTSD injuries as being serious, given that both parties agreed the injury she suffered was “moderate”.
To qualify for an award at the level given by the High Court, Mr Justice Noonan said the plaintiff “would have to be suffering from significant disability for the foreseeable future” and, as already pointed out, that was not the case here.
No longer suffering
While Ms Zaganczyk did have PTSD, the court said medical evidence was given stating that 26 months after the incident the plaintiff was no longer suffering from the condition or any other related disorder.
It was also agreed that many of the plaintiff’s physical injuries, including scars, had cleared up in the weeks after the explosion.
The judge said the aggregate award in this case was €90,000 for general damages, which he said was not “an appropriate sum to award a plaintiff who has recovered within three years”.
The CoA did not accept that the High Court had erred when it awarded Ms Zaganczyk €25,000 for the scars she was left with. In the circumstances, the court was satisfied that the overall award of general damages should be reduced from €90,000 to €60,000. It said an agreed figure of €3,100 for special damages should remain undisturbed, bringing the adjusted total award to €63,100.