Woman who cut her forehead as she bent over laughing at joke loses damages claim

Shop assistant (22) left with permanent scar after hitting her head in recycling area at Dundrum Town Centre

 

A young shop assistant who lacerated her forehead as she “bent over laughing” at a colleague’s joke, has lost her €60,000 damages claim against her employer and two associated companies.

Judge Sinéad Ní Chúalacháin said in the Circuit Civil Court she could find no basis of negligence or breach of duty of care on the part of John David Sports Fashion Ireland; Dundrum Town Centre Management or Crossbridge Investments.

She told 22-year-old shop assistant Sarah Jane O’Doherty that the court was satisfied she had been laughing at the time and was unable to tell the court precisely what she had hit her head against in a recycling area of the shopping centre in June 2016.

Judge Ní Chúalacháin said the young girl, despite failing to prove her claims, would be scarred for life and complimented barristers Conor Kearney, for the shop, and Veronica McInerney, for the other two defendants, on their “wise and sympathetic construction” of what had happened in not looking for costs against Ms O’Doherty.

Ms McInerney, who appeared with Crowley Millar Solicitors for the owners and managers of Dundrum shopping centre, had suggested to Ms O’Doherty in cross-examination that she had been “messing, pushing and pulling” with a work colleague when the accident happened.

Ms O’Doherty told Mr Kearney, who appeared with solicitors Shaffrey and Company, that she had been laughing at the time because she had been amused at what a work colleague had said and done while they emptied cardboard waste into a bin.

She denied this had been the cause of the accident and said she had struck her forehead against the sharp edge of a metal sheet as she bent down to lift pieces of cardboard that had fallen short of the bin.

She said the metal sheet had been attached to the floor of the recycling area.

Permanent scar

Judge Ní Chúalacháin said medical reports on Ms O’Doherty’s injuries and facial scar had been accepted by all three defendants. They revealed she had been treated in the A&E department of the Mater Hospital for a vertical laceration of her forehead. The wound had been cleaned and the edges held together with sterile medical glue. She had suffered concussion type symptoms for a few days and had been off work for a week.

Ms O’Doherty said she and a colleague had been loading cardboard into a bin for recycling when the accident occurred. She said that while she had been laughing at what her colleague had said she denied they had been messing at the time.

She agreed with Mr Kearney that she had found the actions and remarks of her work colleague amusing and had been laughing and bent over at the time. She had bent over to lift pieces of waste cardboard when she struck her forehead and said it had happened when she was laughing.

She denied, when cross-examined by Ms McInerney, that she and her colleague had been “messing, pushing and pulling” and that she had been bent over laughing when she struck her head.

Judge Ní Chúalacháin, accepting submissions to dismiss the case before any rebutting evidence was called, said there was no evidence of any metal sheeting ever having been fixed to the floor at the site of the accident.

The judge was satisfied Ms O’Doherty had been laughing and had been distracted and because of this had not been paying attention to what she was doing. She had not seen whatever she had struck her head against. She had a permanent scar which could clearly be seen at conversation distance.

Dismissing her claims against all three defendants Judge Ní Chúalacháin said that had she been paying attention she would have seen the offending object. There was nothing any of the defendants could have done, through training or otherwise, to prevent the accident.