Neutral Citation no. [1999] 1918

Ref:

SHEC2789

 

 

 

Judgment: approved by the Court for handing down

Delivered:

12/04/99

(subject to editorial corrections)

 

 

 

 

IN THE HIGH COURT OF JUSTICE IN NORTHERN IRELAND

 

QUEEN'S BENCH DIVISION

 

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BETWEEN:

 

SEAN RODGERS

 

Plaintiff;

 

and

 

CHARLES O'NEILL

 

Defendant.

 

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SHEIL J

The plaintiff in this action is a 42 year old married man with a young family; he is a fitter/welder by occupation. On 2 December 1996 while in the course of his employment with the defendant he sustained facial injuries when the grinding disc on an electric grinder shattered and struck him in the face.

The defendant admits liability for this accident and there is no issue of contributory negligence.

I had the benefit of two reports from Mr Millar FRCS dated 17 July 1997 and 25 March 1999 and a report from Dr Diana Day-Cody, consultant psychiatrist dated 11 December 1998. The plaintiff was referred to Dr Day-Cody solely for medico legal purposes and not by way of reference by his own general medical practitioner. Mr Millar FRCS also gave oral evidence to the court.

There is no claim for special damage.

The plaintiff received lacerations to his right cheek and under his chin which were explored at the Mater Hospital. He had nine sutures inserted into his right cheek and three into his chin and was treated with tetanus injection and antibiotics. There was no fracture of the jaw. Initially one of the scars beneath his chin festered and oozed for approximately three weeks. The plaintiff has been left with a very noticeable and a disfiguring scar on his right cheek running to the jawline measuring 6 cms x .6 cms. The scar is purple in colour and slightly depressed. Beneath his chin towards the right side there are two flat pale purple scars which are not too noticeable by reason of their location. Mr Millar FRCS described the scar on the cheek at the time of his examination on 9 July 1997 as being "an ugly and conspicuous scar". At the time of Mr Millar's last examination on 24 March 1999, Mr Millar stated that the plaintiff "is left with a very obvious scar on his cheek which is likely to continue to cause him embarrassment." He stated that surgery would not improve the purple colour which is the most prominent feature of the scar on the left cheek and which would re-occur following surgery and accordingly does not recommend surgery to improve its appearance. He states that the numbness at the scar and the reaction to cold are likely to persist in the long term.

The plaintiff, who impressed me as being an honest witness who did not exaggerate in any way, stated that the scar does embarrass him as people are inclined to ask about it and think, understandably having regard to its appearance and location, that it occurred in a fight and in his opinion might regard him as "a bit of a gangster". He has to take care shaving and on occasions the area around the scar is sore after he has shaved. In cold weather the scar changes to purple in colour and becomes more noticeable. He is still, understandably, somewhat apprehensive about using a grinder at his work.

The plaintiff had thought about growing a beard but his wife did not like the idea and, after consultation with doctors, they decided that the plaintiff should try and live with his scar rather than cover it up. Initially his sleep was disturbed and he had nightmares but this problem has now resolved. Dr Day-Cody stated in her report of 11 December 1998 that the plaintiff, as a result of the accident, "developed symptoms of a post traumatic stress disorder which included intrusive recollections through his nightmares, preferred avoidance of using the grinder, had symptoms of exaggerated psychological arousal and sensitivity, including hyper vigilance when using his machinery, as well as sleep disturbance." The plaintiff attempts while in company to conceal his scar by holding his hand casually over his face. She stated that his self-consciousness about his appearance is likely to improve with the passage of time.

I award the plaintiff the sum of 37,500 for general damages. I award interest thereon at the rate of 2% per annum from the date of the issue of the writ until the date of trial.


12 April 1999

IN THE HIGH COURT OF JUSTICE IN NORTHERN IRELAND

 

QUEEN'S BENCH DIVISION

 

------------

 

BETWEEN:

 

SEAN RODGERS

 

Plaintiff;

 

and

 

CHARLES O'NEILL

 

Defendant.

 

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JUDGMENT

 

OF

 

SHEIL J

 

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