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Jermaine v Epsom and St Helier University Hospitals NHS Trust, High Court, 31 January 2013

21 February 2013
The issues

Nurse – back injury – manual handling – contributory negligence – completion of accident report

The facts

The claimant was a senior nurse employee at the hospital. Contractors were at work in the hospital laying new flooring. Over the weekend they had moved metal seating rows for the purpose and they had been left blocking access to consultation rooms. The claimant asked the porters to move the seating, but the porters said they were too busy and would not be able to help until later. The claimant then contacted cleaners and maintenance, both of whom refused to move the seating. Because patients were arriving who needed to be able to sit, the claimant moved three seating rows on her own, but injured her back on the last set. She told her line manager about the accident and the line manager filled in two incident forms in April and May. Liability was admitted. An issue arose as to contributory negligence.

The decision

The defendants argued that the claimant should be contributorily negligent for her accident because she had failed to apply her manual handling training or to consider alternatives and wait for the assistance of the porters.

The evidence had been given five years after the incident. When there was a clash of oral evidence, it was important to consider what had been written down at the time. In the first report written by the line manager, the claimant had not been criticised in any way. In the second report, written after the line manager had had time to reflect, there was still no criticism of the claimant, but instead there were comments made with regard to the project manager, the contractors and the porters, all of whom were criticised. Although the claimant had received manual handling training, it was specific to her role as a nurse and did not deal with lifting furniture. The claimant had asked for help and had not received it. It was not practicable for her to avoid the task. She had been at no fault whatsoever.

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The content on this page is provided for the purposes of general interest and information. It contains only brief summaries of aspects of the subject matter and does not provide comprehensive statements of the law. It does not constitute legal advice and does not provide a substitute for it.

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