A woman left permanently disabled with severe back and other injuries after slipping on grapes while shopping in a Tesco store in Kilrush has been awarded €1.4m damages by a High Court judge.
Mr Justice Anthony Barr made the award to Patricia Walsh (48), Shannondale Stud, Rehy, Carrigaholt, over the incident in the Tesco store at Kilrush, on August 28th 2012.
A stay applies on the award pending an appeal on condition €500,000 is paid out now, plus 75% of Ms Walsh’s legal costs.
Ms Walsh, represented by Edward Walsh SC and Pat Quinn SC, instructed by Carmody & Co Solicitors, sued Tesco Ireland which admitted liability on the first day of the case. It ran for seven days and involved evidence from 15 doctors among others.
In his detailed judgment, the judge said it was clear, as a result of the fall, Ms Walsh suffered a serious injury to the muscles and ligaments of her lower back which caused her to experience severe pain in her lower back, radiating into her lower leg.
He was satisfied she had suffered permanent back and bladder injuries rendering her “grossly disabled in all aspects of her life”.
She underwent a range of treatment here and in the UK, culminating in insertion of a spinal cord stimulator in February 2015. She continues to have constant pain daily and doctors believed, as well as the stimulator, she would need ongoing treatment with rhizotomoies.
A significant injury to her bladder requires her to self-caterise three times a day and she also suffered psyhiatric and psychological consequences from her injuries, he found.
She was unfit to return to her pre-accident work as a sceretary/receptionist and, on the balance of probabilities, would not be fit to return to work again, he also held
Formerly an active sportswoman who played GAA with Clare and Munster, Ms Walsh is unable to participate in sports and dancing with her young daughters, especially to ride horses, and finds that very distressing, he added.
He also accepted her evidence that lower back injuries experienced after she fell in the farm yard in 2008 had resolved completely for four years before the fall in the Tesco store.
Videos of Ms Walsh taken for Tesco by a private investigator, including one showing her walking into a health centre with a limp, did not disclose her engaging in any activity inconsistent with her evidence, he said.
While Tesco also asked her about images from her Facebook page of her attending a One Direction concert with her children in Croke Park, he accepted her evidence she wanted to give her children some “happy memories from childhood” and paid fot that with pain in the days afterwards.
He awarded total damages of €1.43m, including some €393,000 for loss of earnings to date and into the future; €270,000 general damages to date and into the future; €239,846 for aids and applinaces and €132,750 for urology costs.
In evidence to the court, Ms Walsh said she fell in the fruit section of the Kilrush store, her legs shot out from under her, she hit the ground and was unable to get up afterwards. Her injuries affect her ability to work on the stud farm where she lives with her husband and children and to resume employment, she said.
A business studies graduate from Tralee IT, she previously worked in the US for the Unilever and Philip Morris firms before returning to Ireland in 2001 where she worked with Musgrave’s for a time.
* In a statement afterwards, Carmody & Co, solicitors for Ms Walsh, said she was “very happy and relieved” at the outcome and particularly happy Tesco admitted liability at the commencement of the hearing.
By Mary Carolan