An ESB network technician who came across a 10,000 kilovolt live electric cable when repairing a street light has been awarded €83,000 for nervous shock by the High Court.
Ms Justice Bronagh O’Hanlon said Warren Harford did not suffer physical injuries but there was no doubt he suffered a shock and found it a horrifying experience.
The shock was a “very bad” one which caused both PTSD and depression, she said.
It was quite clear the nervous shock was caused by the ESB’s negligent act or omissions towards Mr Harford, she held.
She said he certainly apprehended injury if not death to himself in the incident in which he was exposed directly to the 10,000 kilovolt live cable.
Mr Harford (45) had sued his employer for nervous shock as a result of the incident on December 14th, 2014.
He claimed he was directed to use a cable identification machine which, he claimed, wasn’t the usual machine he used.
Mr Harford had claimed he was caused to handle and to be exposed to a 10,000 kilovolt electric cable and suffered a medically recognised psychiatric injury which is ongoing although he did not suffer physical injuries in the incident.
The ESB had admitted negligence in December 2018 and accepted the machine provided to Mr Harford was unsafe and unsuitable and Mr Harford was not trained in its use.
The nervous shock claim was strenuously defended, the judge noted.
In her judgment on Tuesday, she said Mr Harford gave evidence he was in an excavated hole when he had used the machine, cut off the electricity supply and stripped down a cable.
Something caught his eye and did not look right so he felt around the cable and found three cores indicating that it was in fact a 10,000 kilovolt cable, he said.
Mr Harford reported the incident at the highest classification of dangerous level of incident and confirmed in court, if one sticks a test probe in a medium voltage 10,000 kilovolt cable, it would burn a person, explode or result in death.
Ms Justice O’Hanlon said it was clearly the case on the medical evidence that Mr Harford suffered a recognisable psychiatric injury.
Given the failure to adequately protect and train Mr Harford in relation to the use of the identification machine, which was later removed from use, this was a reasonably foreseeable event, she ruled.
The event had a very detrimental effect on Mr Harford who now works in a sales area in the ESB, she said.
She had no reason to doubt Mr Harford’s credibility or earnestness, she added.
Mr Harford, the judge concluded, continues to suffer from recognisable psychiatric injury and his PTSD and/or depression were induced by the shock of his exposure to the 10,000 kilovolt cable.
A duty of care not to cause reasonably foreseeable injury was owed by the ESB to Mr Harford, the judge said.