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Damages for factory worker after severed finger leads to loss of job
A Cambridgeshire woman who severed the end of her middle finger in an accident at work has received more than £44,000 in an out of court settlement.
Nick Godwin, a specialist work accident lawyer at Fentons Solicitors LLP, said his client, a frozen-food factory worker in her 40s, was helping a colleague fix a blocked packaging machine when the incident occurred more than two years ago.
“The machine my client was attempting to fix had suffered a number of blockages in the weeks leading up to the incident,” said Nick, a partner at the firm. “Normally, there would be two machine-operators in charge of each shift, but on the day of the incident, the colleague who normally worked alongside my client was away on holiday, leaving her effectively in sole charge of the shift and unable to take her requisite breaks.
“When the packaging machine suffered yet another blockage, a shift engineer who was tasked with fixing the problem requested her help,” added Nick. “After mistakenly assuming the engineer had already switched the power off, my client attempted to clear the blockage by placing her left hand inside a section of pipe, whereupon a rotary valve severed her middle finger just above the knuckle.”
The claimant was taken by ambulance to hospital and underwent an operation to dress her wound. After three days, she was sent home into the care of her husband and referred for physiotherapy.
“Over the following months, my client - who had to keep her arm upright in a sling - developed a complex and untreatable condition known as ‘phantom limb pain,’ where sharp pain is felt in the area from where an amputated limb or digit used to be,” said Nick. “In addition, she suffered shooting pains up and down her arm and had to rely on her husband to help her with everyday tasks such as washing, getting dressed and preparing meals.”
The claimant’s employer initially admitted liability subject to causation, but then retracted the admission before finally agreeing to a 70/30 split in the client’s favour - but not until after we were forced to commence court proceedings. Despite the lion’s share of the blame lying with the defendant, they dismissed both the claimant and the engineer, who had requested her help, for gross misconduct shortly after the accident. The claimant later pursued a claim for unfair dismissal and an Employment Tribunal ruled in her favour.
“Due in part to her employer’s negligence in failing to provide adequate training and failing to properly maintain the machinery she was required to use, my client not only lost part of her finger but she also lost her job and livelihood,” said Nick. “Although she has now secured a new job, she suffered significant stress and financial problems following her sacking as she struggled to find alternative factory work, on account of her disability, for several months.
“Although the injury my client suffered was to her non-dominant left hand, she still struggles with tying laces, using cutlery and any activity requiring dexterity, such as unscrewing jars or buttoning and folding clothes,” added Nick. “She continues to suffer with phantom limb pain as well as stiffness, swelling and a loss of grip strength in her injured hand and the stump of her finger often becomes both painful and swollen in cold weather. We obtained evidence from a hand consultant, a psychiatrist and a prosthetics expert, all of whom supported the client’s desire for a prosthetic finger attachment, and a significant proportion of the damages agreed included provision for this in the future.”
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