High Court: €89,000 awarded to man with rotator cuff tear and psychiatric sequalae under Personal Injury Guidelines
The High Court has awarded €89,000 to a man who received a tear to his rotator cuff and psychiatric damage in a road traffic accident. In so ruling, the court applied the principles contained in the Personal Injuries Guidelines for compensation for multiple injuries.
About this case:
- Citation: IEHC 680
- Court:High Court
- Judge:Mr Justice Anthony Barr
Delivering judgment in the case, Mr Justice Anthony Barr held that the plaintiff was an honest person who did not exaggerate his injuries.
The court also considered submissions from counsel regarding the appropriate level of compensation under the Guidelines before determining that the appropriate award was €55,000 for the rotator cuff injury and €20,000 for the psychiatric damage.
In November 2019, the plaintiff was driving his car. He was stationary as he intended to turn right into a garage. Unfortunately, he was struck forcibly from behind by a van driven by an employee of the defendant. Liability for causation was admitted and the matter proceeded as an assessment only hearing.
The plaintiff claimed to have suffered two primary injuries. The first was a rotator cuff tear which caused severe pain in his right shoulder. The plaintiff underwent surgery four months after the accident. When reviewed by a doctor on behalf of the Personal Injuries Assessment Board in December 2020, the plaintiff complained of intermittent pain and difficulty with lifting and sleeping. At that time, he was found to have a significant limitation of movement. He described his injury as having improved by 40 percent.
The plaintiff was reviewed again in August 2021 and stated that his shoulder had further improved although he still had pain at work. He stated that his overall injury had improved by 80 percent and he had almost full range of movement in his shoulder joint.
In October 2022, the plaintiff continued to complain of discomfort when lying on his side but was able to manage the demands of work. He had steroid injections to alleviate ongoing pain.
The plaintiff also suffered a secondary injury in the form of psychiatric damage. His recreational activities such as swimming, coaching football and socialising were badly affected. He was diagnosed with a severe adjustment disorder three years after the accident.
Mr Justice Barr began by outlining the approach to assessing multiple injuries in the Guidelines. It was noted that a plaintiff may be overcompensated if each injury was individually assessed and added together. As such, the proper approach was to identify the dominant injury and value that injury. An uplift should then be provided to take account of the lesser or other injuries. This was to ensure that the overall award was proportionate.
The court also considered Lipinski (A Minor) v. Whelan  IEHC 452 and Meehan v. Shawcove Ltd  IECA 208 which affirmed the proper approach to damages in multiple injury cases.
The court also heard submissions from counsel. The plaintiff’s counsel submitted that the rotator cuff injury fell into the €40,000 to €75,000 bracket and suggested an award of €60,000. For the psychiatric damage, it was submitted that it fell into the €10,000 to €35,000 bracket and €20,000 was suggested as the appropriate award.
The defendant suggested that the rotator cuff was more properly worth €35,000 to €45,000 and suggested an uplift of €5,000 for the psychiatric injury as it was “minor psychiatric damage”.
In valuing the injuries, the court noted that the plaintiff had a number of unrelated health issues which were not related to the accident. The court was satisfied that the plaintiff gave his evidence in a fair and frank manner. It was accepted that the pain in the shoulder had been largely alleviated by surgery in March 2020 but that he continued to experience pain, discomfort and some limitation. From the medical evidence, it appeared that the ongoing issued were permanent.
The plaintiff had gone from swimming 40 lengths of a pool five times a week to hardly being able to swim one length without pain. This was a significant level of disablement, the court held. As such, the court valued the shoulder injury at €55,000.
The court was also satisfied that the plaintiff had suffered a significant psychiatric injury and awarded €20,000 for this. The overall general damages award came to €75,000, which was broken down into €50,000 for pain and suffering to date and €25,000 for pain and suffering into the future.
The court was satisfied that the global figure of general damages was fair compensation for the plaintiff. Since special damages were agreed, the court made an order for €89,250 in favour of the plaintiff.
McDonnell v. Upton Foods Limited  IEHC 680