Our client worked as a warehouse operative in Birmingham.  As he approached the end of his shift, he started to tidy up the warehouse as he had been asked to do by his supervisor.  Moments later he was struck by a forklift truck and knocked to the floor. His supervisor and the forklift driver took him to Birmingham Heartland Hospital where he remained for three weeks receiving treatment for a range of complex and serious injuries, including broken bones and a fractured pelvis.

The forklift truck was driven by our client’s colleague.  It transpired that he was not trained or authorised to drive the forklift truck.  He was only able to start the vehicle because the keys had been left in the ignition.

During our client’s stay in hospital it was revealed that both his supervisor and the forklift driver had lied to the doctors in A&E, telling them that our client had accidentally fallen from a ladder rather than been injured by a forklift truck at work.  They had both lied to avoid getting in trouble.  At this point our client instructed us to represent him.

As the case proceeded it emerged that not only had the driver lied to the hospital but incredibly, he suggested that our client had helped him to start the forklift truck immediately before the accident.  His employers also tried to blame our client for getting run over, saying that he should have somehow prevented the driver from starting the truck.  Moreover, the employers claimed that they should not be liable to compensate our client because it was not their fault that the driver acted in the way he did.  We were therefore compelled to take this matter to Court.

At the three-day Trial, the Judge heard all evidence from both sides.  The Judge ruled that it was simply not true that our client had helped to start the vehicle.  Nor was it his responsibility to have prevented the driver from starting the forklift.  Rather, it was the employer’s responsibility to take reasonable steps to prevent their forklift trucks from being used by unauthorised members of their staff.  It was obviously not a safe system to allow the keys to be left in unattended vehicles.  The employers were held to be responsible under the doctrine of ‘vicarious liability’.

What is Vicarious Liability?

Vicarious liability is the legal principle that holds employers responsible for the actions of their employees.  In this case the Court heard a range of complex arguments about the application of the principle of vicarious liability and how it should apply to the circumstances of our client’s case.  This is a complicated area of law which requires experienced solicitors to navigate.  The leading cases are Lister v Hesley Hall Ltd [2001] UKHL 22  and Mohamud v WM Morrison Supermarkets PLC [2016] UKSC 11.

To succeed our client had to demonstrate firstly that using a forklift truck was broadly in the nature of the job. Second, the Court needed to be satisfied that there was sufficient connection between the wrongful actions of the driver and his employment.  We succeeded on both points.  Afterall, our client was injured at work, the injury was caused by a fellow employee, and the driver was using work equipment which was known to be dangerous.

The Judge, HHJ Truman, highlighted in her judgment that “in our case, this was not a prank directed at the Claimant.  It was the driver, for reasons of his own, trying to move the forklift truck and unfortunately striking the Claimant in the course of so doing.  The accident arose out of his misuse of work equipment and in breach of the company policy…It is eminently foreseeable that a forklift truck might cause injury.” She went on to conclude “I do consider on the evidence before me that there has been a failure to take reasonably practicable steps to avoid reasonably foreseeable risks… Reasonably practicable steps could have been taken to have prevented what did occur, namely a better system for ensuring keys were not left in the trucks and/or that unauthorised persons could not gain access to the keys.  In summary I find for the Claimant”.

We were delighted to achieve such a comprehensive victory for our client.  Nobody should suffer life-changing injuries at work due to the carelessness of their employers.  It is right that our client is compensated for the complex and serious personal injury he suffered, as well as the earnings he has lost and will lose in the future as he continues his recovery.

If you have suffered an accident whilst at work which has caused you to suffer an injury, or have another legal problem you need help with, please contact our specialist compensation solicitors today for a free no obligation discussion.  We represent clients nationally, or from our Cheshire offices in Cheadle Hulme (Stockport) and Keslall (Tarporley).

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