Garda challenges refusal to allow damages claim over fingernail injury
Plaintiff left with disfigured nail after a patrol car door slammed on his little finger
The court heard Garda Noel Callan’s fingernail is irregular and deformed after a patrol car door slammed on his hand. Photograph: Collins Dublin
A garda left with a disfigured nail after a patrol car door slammed on his little finger while he was restraining a drunk and violent man has challenged a refusal to allow him seek compensation.
Garda Noel Callan disputes the refusal of the Minister for Justice to sanction a claim under the Garda Compensation Acts because the Minister considered, based on medical reports, the injury was minor.
At the outset, the judge told the sides his father had been a garda for 35 years but he did not believe he was ever injured. Both sides indicated they had no objection to the judge hearing the case.
Richard Kean SC, for Garda Callan, said, under the Garda Compensation Acts, a garda injured during the course of duty is entitled to seek compensation from the courts and gardaí are awarded sums in appropriate cases.
To filter out trivial cases, the Acts provide a minister must authorise the bringing of a claim but does not have to do so if they consider the injury so trivial a claim should not be authorised, he said.
The issue in this case was the meaning of a minor injury which was not defined in the relevant legislation. While not profound or serious, this was not a minor injury and the Minister’s decision was irrational and unreasonable and failed to take proper account of the medical evidence, he submitted.
He said the injury occurred while Garda Callan was on duty at Swords, Co Dublin, on August 26th, 2011. The evidence was, after a drunk man was arrested for public order offences, he began kicking out and became violent in the patrol car and a door slammed on Garda Callan’s left hand.
Garda Callan, who is right-handed, was treated for an injury to the little finger of his left hand and was out of work for a week, counsel said.
His fingernail bed was lacerated, the fingernail had to be removed and he suffered, over an eight-month period, loss of sensation and tenderness when driving and performing various domestic and other tasks.
While the fingernail had grown back, it was irregular and deformed and his side’s medical report said he was left with a permanent visible cosmetic blemish and permanently compromised fingernail. He continues to experience some tenderness, especially in cold weather.
Opposing the application, counsel for the Minister said all the medical evidence was fully considered, including a medical report stating Garda Callan had essentially recovered from the injury. The Minister contended this was a minor injury concerning the appearance of the fingernail.
The Minister’s decision was made within his powers and took account of all relevant material, counsel said. The Minister considered the medical reports and the garda’s submissions and gave reasons for his decision backed up by case law.
Garda Callan’s side was given an opportunity to respond and that response was considered before the final reasoned decision was given, he added.