AN AMATEUR Limerick disc jockey who blamed Dunnes Stores for “breaking his back and then breaking his life” over a workplace accident three years ago, has been awarded €315,000 in damages.
Following a three-day hearing at the High Court sitting in Limerick, Mr Justice Brian McGovern ruled that 32-year-old Limerick man, Gerard Leo was entitled to substantial damages for the injures suffered when he fell while moving the heavy pallet of drinks out of a goods lift at the Childer’s Road branch of Dunnes Stores on February 1, 2012.
Counsel for Mr Leo, Gerry Tynan SC said that his client had worked for Dunnes Stores for 11 years before the case and was “happy with his lot, before Dunnes Stores broke his back and then broke his life”.
Following the accident, Gerard Leo became very depressed and upset with the manner he was treated by his employers.
Mr Leo said he was moving the pallet from a goods lift to the floor of the stock room when the wheels of his pallet truck got caught in the lift.
In CCTV footage shown to the court, Mr Leo is seen trying to manoeuvre the pallet before slipping and falling on his back.
He said that moving pallets out of the lift was often like a “lottery – you either get it or you don’t”.
“The pallet got lodged because the floors are not level. I had to use all my strength to get it out but I slipped because we were told by Dunnes to wear business style shoes as part of their policy and not safety boots which are more suited to the stockroom work.
Mr Leo said that the stockroom workers had the use of electrical pallet trucks but this were discontinued “because people were crashing into walls and doors with them”.
When asked why he didn’t seek help in moving the pallet, he said they “were told to just deal with the problems”.
After his fall, he said that he “couldn’t feel anything – I just felt numb”.
He was helped to his feet and then seated on a chair and told to go to the canteen for a drink before returning to his shift.
However, the pain was so intense that he sat out his shift in the back of the stock room.
He thought that things would ‘right themselves’ so it was almost five months before he went to his doctor.
He eventually succumbed to the back pain and was certified as being unfit for work for almost two years.
Dunnes Stores would only let him return to work if he was medically fit to carry out stock room tasks.
“The next thing, they just sent me my P45 and that was it, I was gone.”
The impact of this was devastating, relationships broke down and he underwent counselling as well as pain treatment for the injury.
“I’m trying to get back to normal in my life and I have taken up a course to follow my hobby in music and radio.
Consultant engineer Tom Hayes said that after reviewing the CCTV footage and the case file, he could not understand Dunnes Stores’ policy of not permitting store staff to wear safety shoes.
Medical evidence concluded that Mr Leo is likely to have continued pain into the future as a result of his back injury.
Awarding €315,000 and High Court costs to Mr Leo, Mr Justice McGovern ordered that €150,000 be paid out immediately in the event of an appeal being made by Dunnes Stores.