Pensioners can be awarded damages for permanent disability

The court found that despite being the age of 83, she was still entitled to damages for permanent disability caused while visiting her local bank in July 2016

Notwithstanding that a person is 83 years old, she is still entitled to damages for permanent disability caused and the court may carry out the calculations. This was decided in Catherine Seager -v- Bank of Valletta plc on 17 June 2019 by Mr Justice Lawrence Mintoff.

The plaintiff had filed a sworn application, wherein she explained that she visited her local bank in July 2016 and as she walked in she tripped over a carpet, breaking her left leg. She had to undergo an operation and even contracted an infection. Due this incident her movement became limited, although being very active prior to the accident.

The Bank replied by filing a statement of defence, that the accident was not the bank’s fault and was not due to the bank’s negligence.
Mr Justice Mintoff examined the evidence the parties presented before him. The plaintiff presented a number of medial certificates which showed that she suffered from herpes zoster which was derived from a low immune system that was caused by the stressed she had undergone following the accident. She presented receipts for medical care she was administered and also a number of photos showing her injuries.

In her affidavit, she told the Court that she was 83 years of age and she was very active. She had an active social life and drove. On the day of the incident she to her bank to withdraw money. The policeman present opened the door and when she stepped in she fell in the carpet that was there. She told the Court that it was as though she was walking on ice. She was in pain straight away and felt that her leg was broken. An ambulance took her to Mater Dei Hospital and after putting her leg in plaster she was taken home. She received a call from the hospital to ask her to return to hospital as they wanted to place a metal plate in her leg. An operation followed. She is now house bound.

Her son also presented an affidavit, who corroborated what his mother said. He described that has to refuse work in order to take care of his mother. His mother compensated him by paying him €10,000.

The Court appointed a medical expert who examined the plaintiff. The expert confirmed that she suffered permanent disability of 2%.

The bank manager told the Court that the bank used a normal domestic door mat. After the accident the carpet was removed and was eventually changed.

The policeman present on the day of the accident told the Court that the door mat was constantly moving and he had informed the receptionist of the bank. He confirmed that the plaintiff had tripped in the door mat.

As to the legal considerations, the Court held that in understanding the case, one had to appreciate that this accident was life changing for the plaintiff. The branch manager testified that this accident was the first of its kind. The evidence showed that this carpet was known as a magic carpet and was light in weight. This was not the ideal type of carpet for a bank, since hundred entered and exited the bank on a daily basis. The policeman who testified showed how serious the situation was he was constantly putting the carpet back in its place. The Court ruled that the bank should be held responsible for the accident and the damages the plaintiff sustained.

The Court  awarded all the expenses incurred in connection to the plaintiff’s case, which includes medicines she purchased. As regard to the plaintiff’s claim to be paid for having to take care of her, the Court pointed out that he lived with her and that at the time he was unemployed. However, the evidence showed that he had turned down work that would earn him a substantial sum Furthermore, the quotations she received to pay for 24-hour care was also substantial and therefore, She compensated her son with €10,000. The Court awarded the plaintiff this sum of €10,0000

With regard to the claim of loss of earning, the Court quoted from a judgement Emmeline Cini -v- Antoine Cachia decided on 18 February 2013, wherein the Court held that it had to look at the loss of future earnings due to suffering a disability. Mr Justice Mintoff  held that our legal system gives a discretion to the Courts when awarding damages. In this case the plaintiff was 83, when she fell, and this fact alone should not disqualify her from receiving a damage. The medical expert held that she suffers 2% disability.

In another judgement Mary Farrugia -v- Agnes Borg et decided on 24 October 2016 of the First Hall of the Civil Court, it was established that a housewife, who does not earn a salary, still has a right to compensation for loss of earnings. Mr Justice Mintoff calculated the net minimum wage in 2016 was €8051.85. The Court indicated that person who have passed the pensionable age have a multiplier of 5 years. The Courts the reduce 20%, since the plaintiff would be receiving a lum sum. Therefore, if one had to multiply €8051.85 by 5, then by 2% disability and reduce the 20%, would bring the damages to €644.13

Therefore, the Court added the medicines that the plaintiff bought, with the €10,000 to compensate her son and the damages for the permanent disability and came up with the sum of €11.475.41 The Court, then ordered the bank to pay this sum.

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