Friday, May 15, 2009

£760,000 award against Stiell Facilities for 'minor' work accident

David Kerr, who suffered a ‘minor work accident’ has been awarded £760,000 damages despite contentions his evidence was unreliable.

The Herald reports :

£760,000 damages for man hurt in ‘minor accident’

A man who exaggerated his disability in benefits claims was yesterday awarded £760,000 damages following a minor accident at work.

A judge ruled that David Kerr's complaints of severe pain and fatigue are "in large measure genuine".

Lord Hodge said he was satisfied the accident contributed to Mr Kerr's condition because a muscle injury and resulting pain were the trigger for "chronic pain syndrome".He said: "I am persuaded on a balance of probabilities that the bulk of his complaints are genuine and not consciously fabricated. I am satisfied that he suffers from a very significant pain disorder."

He rejected a contention that Mr Kerr was unreliable and his case failed because medical experts who supported his claim had reached their judgements relying largely on information he provided.

"While he clearly exaggerated his disability in the application forms for benefits, I am not persuaded that he is to be treated as incredible or unreliable in relation to the existence of a long term condition in which he suffers serious pain and fatigue," he said.

Mr Kerr, 38, of Ledi Avenue, Tullibody, Clackmannanshire, had sued his former employers Uddingston-based Stiell Facilities for £1million in an action at the Court of Session in Edinburgh.

The electrician was helping colleagues move a large circuit breaker at offices near Lothian Road, in Edinburgh, when he was injured. The equipment began to tip and the men struggled to get it upright again.

Lord Hodge said he was satisfied that he suffered "a minor muscular injury" when pulling the equipment back into an upright position.

Mr Kerr was diagnosed as suffering from muscular neck pain in October 1999 at Stirling Royal Infirmary.

He has not worked since November 2001 and since late 1999 has suffered pain which has "manifested itself in many and baffling ways", said the judge.

The judge said Mr Kerr walked with a limp when he came into and left court. He was stooped, held his left arm in a guarded way and repeatedly showed signs of pain or discomfort.

But he was secretly filmed, including going shopping with his wife, Laura, and loading and carrying shopping. Mrs Kerr, a former supermarket employee, gave up her job to care for her husband.

"In the suveillance videos he generally appeared to have normal mobility, apart from a dipping gait or a limp and an occasional appearance of protecting his left arm, and did not manifest significant pain," said Lord Hodge.

Medical experts, called to give evidence, differed over Mr Kerr's condition.

Lord Hodge said he was generally prepared to accept the view of consultant neuro- logist Jon Stone who said that Mr Kerr suffered genuine chronic pain syndrome, but that there had been a degree of exaggeration of his physical symptoms, especially when seeing doctors.

Consultant psychiatrist Dr David Gill, who was called by lawyers for Stiell Facilities, said the long term disability was out of all proportion to the accident. He said there were concerns that Mr Kerr had exaggerated his symptoms and was influenced by the litigation.

Lord Hodge said: "The pursuer's (Mr Kerr's) principal complaint is pain.

"One cannot measure pain. In diagnosing a condition manifested only or principally by pain a doctor has to rely on what a patient tells him."

Lord Hodge found Stiell Facilities liable in the damages claim, and awarded Mr Kerr a total of £762,227.

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