Fitter awarded €62,000 for fall at Cork City Fire Station

Ian McWhinney fractured his left wrist after falling while repair a shutter on a fire truck


A 53-year-old fitter on North Sea oil rigs, who injured himself when doing an off-duty nixer at Cork City Fire Station while on leave, has been awarded over €83,000 damages against Cork City Council.

Mr Justice David Barniville, in a reserved judgment delivered on Wednesday, told barrister Fred Gilligan, counsel for the local authority, that he was holding Ian McWhinney 25 per cent responsible in contributory negligence and reduced the award to €62,482.

Judge Barniville, who heard Mr McWhinney’s claim over a three-day hearing in Cork last month, said he was a maintenance fitter on off-shore oil rigs in the North Sea and when on leave carried on work on his own account repairing doors and shutters.

Dr John O’Mahony SC, for Mr McWhinney, had told the court his client typically was required to work on the rig for three weeks and then was off work for the following three weeks.

Dr O’Mahony said the work involved was strenuous and required Mr McWhinney, of Douglas, Cork, to work 12-hour shifts both inside and outside on oil rigs in particularly tough and inclement weather conditions.

Judge Barniville said that during off periods Mr McWhinney normally returned home and carried out work on his own account. In July 2013 he had been contacted by Cork City Fire Station, which is under the control of Cork City Council, and had been asked to carry out repairs to the shutter on one of the fire trucks at Anglesea Street Fire Station.

He had driven to the station and had reversed into one of the parking bays. After opening the sliding door of his van he climbed into the rear to obtain tools and then backed down out of it, stepping on the sloping side of an uncovered drain that ran along the length of the yard.

He had fallen and sustained a very serious fracture to his left wrist and had fairly conceded in cross-examination by Mr Gilligan that he probably ought to have had “more of an eye out for it” and to have noted the drain before the accident.

Judge Barniville said the open drain crossing the rear yard of the fire station did amount to a hazard to people such as Mr McWhinney who were required to enter the yard for the purpose of carrying out work on an occasional basis.

The judge said Mr McWhinney suffered a multi-fragmentary fracture involving a number of bones in his left wrist and had been detained in hospital for surgery under anaesthesia to fix wires to hold the fractures in place.

Apart from the effect the injury had during his work on oil rigs he had to abandon his hobbies of squash and the flying of power kites. Four years after the accident he was continuing to complain of stiffness and weakness in his left wrist. He had been out of work for eight weeks.

Judge Barniville awarded Mr McWhinney €60,000 for pain and suffering to date and €10,000 for suffering in the future. Special damages had been agreed at €13,310 bringing the total to €83,310 which, with a 25 per cent reduction for contributory negligence, allowed for an award of €62,482.50.