The former employer of a ceiling fixer who suffered an acute head injury in a workplace fall has lost its appeal against the level of damages awarded by the lower court.
Stephen Dalling, 31, was working for R J Heale & Co Ltd. in a disused factory, dismantling the building’s roof, when he fell 15 feet onto a concrete floor, badly injuring his back and fracturing his skull.
Although he made a good recovery from the accident, Mr Dalling’s injuries mean that he is unlikely ever to work again. After the accident, he also began drinking to excess. On one occasion, he fell over backwards in a pub and hit his head again, which caused his condition to worsen. Since that time, he has managed to reduce his alcohol consumption.
When Mr Dalling brought a personal injury claim against his employer, the judge accepted expert evidence that the initial head injury had had a disinhibiting effect on him, reducing his ability to control his drinking habit, and had also reduced his alcohol tolerance level.
Based on the factual and medical evidence, the court held that Mr Dalling’s impairments and associated difficulties following the first accident played a causative part in his drinking to excess. In the judge’s view, it would be firstly somewhat artificial and secondly simply unfair to regard the later accident as having been brought about by Mr Dalling and not at all by his employer. He therefore found that Mr Dalling should bear only one third of the responsibility for the later accident.
Mr Dalling was awarded £580,000 in damages but R J Heale & Co appealed, arguing that he had shown that he was able to control his drinking and the company should not be held liable for the second fall in the pub.
The Court of Appeal found, however, that the second fall was causally connected to the first one and dismissed the appeal.