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Compensation for injured firefighter reduced on appeal due to contributory negligence

The Court of Appeal has reduced by a quarter the amount of compensation awarded to a fireman who was injured in a training exercise, holding that there was an element of contributory negligence on his part

matthew_agius
Matthew Agius
19 July 2017, 3:09pm
The court said 25% of the responsibility for the accident was down to Farrugia and 75% the fault of the appellant, reducing the amount in damages to €54,930
The court said 25% of the responsibility for the accident was down to Farrugia and 75% the fault of the appellant, reducing the amount in damages to €54,930
The Court of Appeal has reduced by a quarter the amount of compensation awarded to a fireman who was injured in a training exercise, holding that there was an element of contributory negligence on his part.

Chief Justice Silvio Camilleri, together with judges Tonio Mallia and Joseph Azzopardi upheld the decision ordering the Director of the Civil Protection Department (CPD) to compensate Pierre Farrugia, a senior technician at ST Microelectronics and trainee volunteer firefighter, who had been injured when he fell two storeys at during an exercise in Hal Far in 2012.

Farrugia had been one of a team of four persons carrying a high pressure water hose. Visibility in the so-called “smoke-house” was very low, he said. Farrugia had been turning around to ask a team mate to feed more length of hose forward, when he fell two storeys through an open shaft, landing on his side.

A court appointed expert assessed Farrugia as having suffered an 8% disability as a result.

In the original judgment, the court had cleared ST Microelectronics of any responsibility and ordered the Director of the Civil Protection Department to pay Farrugia €73,240 by way of compensation for the injuries he had suffered.

The CPD director had filed an appeal against the award, arguing that Farrugia had been warned of open shafts and saying that Farrugia had fallen through the shaft because he had turned to the wrong side.

Farrugia counter-argued that the shafts should not have been open and that after the incident, they had in fact been covered.

The Court of Appeal, quoting jurisprudence on the issue of liability in tort, noted that the governing legal principle was that everyone is answerable for the damage which occurs through his fault. “But it is also held and accepted that it must be shown that aside from responsibility, the damage caused must have arisen from the fault. Above all, the law also states that where the party that suffered damage had itself contributed to the damage by imprudence, lack of diligence or thought...the court has discretion to assess the grade of contribution to the damage.”

In view of the fact that the original sum had been worked out on an incorrect salary, the court revised the compensation due down to €41,760.

Ruling that 25% of the responsibility for the accident could be attributed to Farrugia and 75% the fault of the appellant, the court then moved to reduce the amount in damages to €31,320.

matthew_agius
Court reporter Matthew Agius is a Legal Procurator and Commissioner for Oaths. Prior to re...