Facts of the case
By way of brief background to this case, the Plaintiff was employed as a deli assistant at the Defendant’s service station at Caherdavin, Limerick. On the 22nd day of February 2010, the Plaintiff attended work at the deli counter while one other colleague was on duty at the till area. The till area was equipped with a static panic alarm while the deli area was not, as it did not handle cash directly.
The bread delivery man, Mr Treacy entered the shop and began speaking with the Plaintiff. While the Plaintiff was chatting to Mr Treacy, another man entered the shop, drew a gun and shot Mr Treacy in the head. The Plaintiff dropped to the floor and crawled to the cloakroom to access her phone. She could hear more shots being fired as she was in the cloakroom. The Plaintiff called the emergency operator in a hushed voice, as she was terrified the assailant would hear her. The emergency operator made a number of attempts to call the Plaintiff back although the Plaintiff immediately hung up as her phone was not on mute. The Plaintiff claimed in her evidence that “I thought I was going to die”.
Approximately five minutes after the assailant entered the shop, the Gardaí arrived having been alerted by a call from a customer in the garage forecourt.
The Court’s Findings
It was accepted by both parties that the Defendant’s Health and Safety protocols provided that all staff should wear portable panic alarms although a later version provided that “all staff that work with cash” should wear panic alarms. While the Defendant claimed that the Plaintiff should have taken a panic alarm from the manager’s office, the incident occurred shortly after 6 am and the manager did not begin duty until 7 am. The judge found it unreasonable to suggest that, without prior instruction, the Plaintiff ought to have taken it upon herself to go into the manager’s office prior to their arrival to search for a panic alarm.
The Defendant attempted to rely on the fact that this unfortunate event was entirely unforeseeable and therefore cannot be held liable. However, the Health and Safety protocols identify the risk of robbery and security incidents. Further, the Plaintiff was not claiming for the totality of the PTSD she suffered, rather she was seeking recovery only for such aggravation of the PTSD as is attributable to the additional sense of isolation, vulnerability and panic which she experiences as a result of her inability to safely summon assistance.
The Court found that the Plaintiff’s PTSD was aggravated as a result of the Defendant’s negligence and awarded €10,000 for the first 12-18 months after the incident, €20,000 for the remaining period and €3,000 in special damages.
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