Inner House finds for pursuer, rejects original Sheriff Court judgement

Woman looking sad at window

Carol Kennedy v Chivas Brothers Limited, with Carol Kennedy being represented by Digby Brown Solicitors.

The Inner House, on Thursday 20th June,  issued its opinion on an appeal by Carol Kennedy against the original Sheriff Court judgement in the above case.

The opinion, delivered by Lord Drummond Young, allowed the appeal and awarded Mrs Kennedy damages of over £5,000. 

Carol Kennedy suffered an injury while working as a line operator at Chivas Brothers bottling plant at Kilmalid.   Mrs Kennedy was required to move a metal trolley loaded with bottle caps from one end of the bottling line to the other.  She attempted to push the trolley but was unable to do so as its wheels had become stuck. After attempting to pull the trolley forward, Ms Kennedy’s hand was trapped against one of the machines when the trolley wheels became unstuck, causing her injury.

Digby Brown advanced arguments under both the Provision and Use of Work Regulations 1998 and Manual Handling Operations Regulations 1992.

In their opinion, Lord Justice Clerk, Lord Drummond Young and Lord McEwan rejected the original Sheriff’s decision in the case, finding that Chivas Brothers were liable for Mrs Kennedy’s injuries. Their Lordships found that the difficulties in doing this task with the equipment provided were "clear and obvious" and made for "a very obvious hazard". Their Lordships stressed that simply because a piece of equipment is widely used in an industry does not inherently make it safe and suitable for any given task and employers are required to consider the specific circumstances of every task and provide their employees with training, guidance and equipment that allows them to carry it out safely.

The Court also overturned the findings on contributory negligence, as in the circumstances Mrs Kennedy had taken action which was required for best control of the trolley.

Following the decision, Barry Berlow-Jackson from Digby Brown Solicitors said:

“This is a significant result, both for our client and for the clarity it gives on the obligations on an employer to consider both the particular task being done and the person carrying out the task, and that it is not sufficient just to look at the general suitability of equipment when determining how a task should be carried out.  

“Mrs Kennedy was required to manoeuvre a heavy trolley through a narrow gap, and the trolley had wheels which were prone to sticking.  In overturning the decision at first instance, the Inner House held that the difficulties in doing this task with this equipment were "clear and obvious" and made for "a very obvious hazard". 

“Everyone has the right to a safe workplace and is entitled to expect their employers to do everything necessary to protect them from risk, danger and injury while in the workplace.”