Warehouse worker awarded €71,000 over hand injury

A warehouse general operative who injured his hand while trying to move a box from a pallet has been awarded €71,000 by the High Court.

Waldemar Szczypior sued his employer Daly Transport Ltd of Castleisland, Co Kerry, who denied negligence.

Mr Justice Cian Feritter rejected an application to dismiss the action on grounds Mr Szczypior had allegedly given evidence that was false or exaggerated. He also found there was no contributory negligence on his behalf.

The judge said Mr Szczypior, who returned with his family from Kerry to his native Poland in September 2020, was employed part-time up to three days a week at the dairy products distribution warehouse.

On January 10th, 2017, he was removing foil wrapping around pallets of cheese and sticking a label on each of the boxes.

When he was labelling a pallet in an area where there was very little room between the objects, he put the tip of his left foot into an opening at the base of a pallet to stabilise himself as he bent down to remove a box.

He got the box out but then fell over with his foot getting trapped under the pallet and he went over on his right hand and wrist onto the concrete floor, causing the injury.

He said he had gone looking for assistance to move the pallet but all the forklift drivers were busy because the warehouse was so busy that day.

Immediately after the incident, his hand became swollen and one of his fingernails was slightly damaged. As he was near the end of a shift, he did not tell anybody of the incident at that time and thought it was likely to be a minor injury.

He got painkillers that evening and gel for the swelling. The next day he showed his hand to his boss, Mike Daly, who asked if he could move his fingers and when he could he was told to go back to work, he said.

His hand continued to give him pain for six days and he went to his GP who referred him to hospital. There he underwent 14 months of physiotherapy. He continued to work at Dalys.

However, when his solicitor sent a letter of claim to his employer over the incident, he said Mr Daly addressed him in derogatory terms and told him that he would not win as he was too small. He also claimed Mr Daly told him he would ensure he would not get work in Kerry again, a claim which was vehemently denied.

He said the defendant was not in a position to give him lighter duties and this is why he was let go in 2018.

As a result of the incident, he went on to develop carpal tunnel syndrome in which pain, pins and needles and numbness, affected his right-hand fingers. He subsequently had surgery for this, which partly improved his symptoms, and he is waiting to undergo further surgery in Poland.

The defence introduced video evidence showing Mr Szczypior doing everyday things which, it was claimed, showed he had exaggerated his injuries.

Mr Justice Feriter said Mr Szczypior’s account given to medical experts of the intermittent limitations of the functionality of his right hand, particularly in grip situations, in the context of his evidence as to his injuries as a whole, was not so materially undermined by the video footage so as to constitute fraud on his behalf.

He also said the defendants accepted he had not been provided with formal manual handling training. The onus was clearly on the defendant to ensure that a safe system of work was in place and that he was properly trained. He also accepted his evidence that he was under pressure on the day in question to complete the labelling of boxes on the pallets. He awarded him €71,000.

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