A hospital catering assistant has lost her challenge to an assessment under new guidelines of €11,000 in general damages for soft tissue injuries sustained after an oven fell on her.
Tara Wolfe (40) claimed that the Personal Injury Assessment Board (PIAB) did not provide sufficient reasons to support the proposed amount to be awarded for injuries to the shoulder, lower back and leg suffered at work on December 26, 2018.
The award was given by the council in June 2021 under new guidelines which have reduced compensation for minor personal injury by up to 50%.
The guidelines, which came into force in April 2021, were the subject of a separate legal challenge which was dismissed by the High Court earlier this month.
Bridget Delaney, of Dungarvan, Co Waterford, brought the case over the PIAB being assessed under the new guidelines of a £3,000 award for a broken ankle when she should have been assessed under the previous rules of the Quantum Book between €12,000 and €21,000 more.
His action against the PIAB and various state parties concerned the constitutionality of the guidelines.
In her ruling on Ms Wolfe’s case on Friday, Judge Miriam O’Regan declined to overturn the PIAB’s assessment and asked her to reconsider the application and provide written reasons regarding her use and application of the guidelines. .
The judge said there was no express term in the guidelines themselves that requires a written explanation to that effect. Such justifications are only necessary when the board has deviated from the guidelines.
There was no legal requirement to explain the rationale for the decision in this case, as it was clear to the judge that the guidelines had been applied. Madam Justice O’Regan said the complaint must then be assessed in accordance with general constitutional principles of due process and disclosure of reasons.
Ms Wolfe, of Donard Drive, Dublin, had at her disposal all the documents on which the PIAB had relied in reaching its decision, the judge heard.
The case stems from an incident at Mater Misecordiae Hospital in Dublin. Ms Wolfe claims that while she was cleaning a heavy oven in the hospital kitchen, it fell on her because it was not properly secured to the wall. She alleges she had to hold and push him away, supporting his weight for about a minute before she managed to push him away from her torso.
In her High Court challenge against PIAB, Ms Wolfe also complained that no reason had been given as to how and why the overriding injury was deemed to be her back and why it was classed as ‘minor’ . After taking note of two doctors’ reports of the woman’s injuries, Madam Justice O’Regan said there was “extensive medical evidence” from which the PIAB could rationally conclude that the main injury was her back.
The judge further felt that the prospect of an adverse costs order if she were to overturn the award and go to court was “not new or exceptional”. Ms Wolfe had alleged that the possibility of being ordered to pay the defendant’s legal costs if the compensation awarded by the court did not exceed that of the PIAB constituted a “chilling effect”.
Madam Justice O’Regan denied all of the relief sought.