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22 February 2024 | Case Study | Article by James Gratton

Amputation of upper limb results in record compensation award

Multi-million-pound settlement for young man who sustained an entire arm amputation during a workplace accident

Jonathan* was aged just 19 when his arm was trapped in a conveyor at his workplace. At the time of the accident, Jonathan was hired by an umbrella employer via an agency to work in a waste processing facility on a ‘zero hours’ contract and was cleaning the vertical surface of a conveyor housing.

His left arm was pulled into the conveyor up to the shoulder due to a combination of an unguarded pinch point and gloves supplied by the waste processing plant that were too large a size for his hands becoming caught by the unguarded pinch point.

As the emergency services were unable to free Jonathan from the machinery, surgeons in attendance made the decision to amputate his arm at the shoulder and Jonathan was flown by air ambulance to hospital. When freed from the machine, his arm was too badly damage to consider reattachment.

Liability was denied from the outset. The owner of the work premises and equipment (first defendant) went into liquidation before issue of proceedings.

Upon service of proceedings, their insurer sought to avoid the policy on grounds of material non-disclosure by the first defendant at renewal of the policy on the same terms as the policy was taken out. As later disclosure proved, there was no reasonable basis for that avoidance. The insurer was then joined as a second defendant. The payroll company was then brought into the case as a third defendant when it was discovered that it was not merely a payroll agency but an “umbrella” employer with £10 million Employers’ Liability cover.

The payroll company adopted the allegations of the waste processor and its insurer that Jonathan had deliberately removed the guard and thrust his hand into the machine, and further defended on the basis that it did not control the premises of the waste processor, or the work done there and thus owed no duty to Jonathan, even though half the staff at the waste processor plant were supplied by the same agency and umbrella company.

Jonathan’s case went to trial on liability which he won and recovered 90% of damages to be assessed after a finding of 10% contributory negligence at trial. That finding of 10% contributory negligence was successfully appealed to the Court of Appeal and so Jonathan was able to recover damages in full.

The waste processor’s insurer went into liquidation soon after the trial on liability which left the insurer for the umbrella employer responsible for meeting the whole of Jonathan’s claim. A voluntary payment of £250,000 was made shortly after the liability-only trial. A further interim payment application was made within six months thereafter, so that Jonathan could have full rehabilitation on a private basis and purchase adapted accommodation and transport and a further interim payment of £645,000 was ordered at a contested hearing.

During the rest of the case, Jonathan’s solicitor, James Gratton, secured interim payments totalling £1.7 million to secure funds for rehabilitation, prosthetics and adapted single-storey accommodation and transport. Before settlement, Jonathan purchased the first LUKE arm upper limb prosthetic supplied outside of the USA, supplied via Dorset Orthopaedic, which is the world’s most advanced and most expensive upper limb prosthetic at £200,000 per unit.

We were successful in reaching a compensation award of £8.5 million (four times the previously highest reported upper limb award) and 17 times the one and only offer of settlement made three weeks prior to the liability trial for Jonathan.

James Gratton, Senior Solicitor at Hugh James, who acted for Jonathan, said:

“This was a very complex case that was hard fought and where the Defendants, prior to the liability only trial, refused to apply the Rehabilitation Code, meaning that Jonathan had no rehabilitation for the first 2.5 years post-accident, leaving Jonathan in a very depressed state. After the successful trial on liability, Jonathan was able to have a full rehabilitation package with the latest technology available anywhere in the world and to move into suitable adapted accommodation, and to learn to drive a suitably adapted vehicle, all before settlement. Jonathan was very happy with the settlement and to be able to move on with his life.”

* The names and identifying details of the client have been changed to protect the privacy of individuals involved.

Author bio

James Gratton is a senior associate in the Manchester office and specialises in catastrophic injury claims, involving brain injury, spinal injury, and limb amputation claims, and combinations of serious injuries sustained in a single accident, otherwise known as polytrauma claims. James can deal with cases which occur in any setting, whether accidents on the road, at work, or in a public place.

Disclaimer: The information on the Hugh James website is for general information only and reflects the position at the date of publication. It does not constitute legal advice and should not be treated as such. If you would like to ensure the commentary reflects current legislation, case law or best practice, please contact the blog author.

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