Sunday, March 09, 2008

Access to Justice discrimination : Benefit Claimant wins £450,000 in damages action while working

While the Scots legal profession boasts there is access to justice for all, most know that boast to be wholly untrue, particularly when a case is not in the legal profession's interest to pursue ....

So, picture this .. a benefit claimant who is out working for cash in hand payments, gets hurt while 'working on the fly' then is able to hire legal agents and win a huge damages payment ... all while he was claiming benefits ....

Compare that to a client trying to hire a solicitor to take a negligence claim against another lawyer ... impossible ...

The Herald reports :

£450,000 for benefit claimant hurt while working

BRIAN DONNELLY March 08 2008

A benefit claimant has been awarded £450,000 damages after being injured in a fall while working for cash-in-hand payments.

Thomas Ruddy, 56, suffered serious head injuries when he plunged from a scaffold at a warehouse in Glasgow while cutting sprinkler pipes.

Mr Ruddy raised an action suing businessman Monte Marco and M & H Enterprises, which owned the premises and of which Mr Marco was a director.

A judge at the Court of Session in Edinburgh yesterday granted decree for payment of £450,000 to Mr Ruddy against Mr Marco.

Lord Carloway ruled that Mr Ruddy was an employee working under a contract of service at the time of the accident.

Mr Ruddy, of Haughburn Road, Pollok, Glasgow, is now unfit to work because of the injuries he suffered.

Lord Carloway said: "The impression created was that Mr Ruddy was a person whose primary and regular income derived from state benefits but who would work casually from time to time as a painter, decorator or odd-job man to supplement his benefit.

"He would have been concerned to conceal his casual engagements from the Benefits Agency and would therefore not have worked for anything other than cash," said the judge.

"He would not have wanted his name to appear on any documentation; be it work records, job schedules, invoices or receipts," said Lord Carloway.

The judge said it was not possible to classify him as self-employed in business for his own account.

He added: "Whether he was employed in a legal sense on a particular job would depend on the facts and circumstances of that job."

The warehouse at Shawbridge Street, Glasgow, was damaged by fire after vandals struck in 2002.

Mr Ruddy spoke to Mr Marco, of Burnside Road, Glasgow, in the autumn of that year and was asked to carry out work at the premises, including cleaning and painting. Mr Marco paid him in cash every Friday afternoon and would call into the warehouse to check on his work.

It was also arranged that Mr Ruddy should remove sprinkler pipes. A saw to cut metal was obtained and scaffolding was required. However, on October 5, 2002, Mr Ruddy fell from the scaffolding.

Lord Carloway said the victim's injuries were such that he could remember nothing of his own work record, the accident or his relationship with Mr Marco.

Mr Ruddy, a fitter to trade, had been made redundant by a bakery firm. His wife, Catherine, told the court her husband did odd jobs for Mr Marco, paid for in cash, while he continued to claim state benefits.

Mr Marco said the work at the warehouse was for Mr Ruddy to paint the walls and wash the floor for £40 a day. He said Mr Ruddy asked if he could cut down the sprinkler pipes and sell them as scrap.

But Lord Carloway said his evidence was not credible on this point. The judge said the only conclusion from the whole evidence was that Mr Ruddy was engaged to carry out a clean-up and decorate, including cutting down the pipes and beams, prior to lease or sale of the premises.

The judge said, looking at all the circumstances in the case, he had decided that Mr Ruddy was employed by Mr Marco.

He said the case against the businessman to take reasonable care to provide a safe place of work and equipment was made out given the state of the scaffold tower from which Mr Ruddy fell.

"He was working at a height of 3.7metres on a half boarded out scaffold with no front or rear guard rails to stop him falling off. There was a high likelihood of a fall from the scaffolding use," said the judge.

A spokesman for the Department of Work and Pensions said: "We cannot comment on individual cases. DWP takes benefit fraud very seriously and, where proven, will take tough action against benefit thieves."

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