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Family Awarded Compensation for a Fatal Accident at Work

A family has been awarded almost €810,000 compensation for a fatal accident at work following an admission of liability by Cork County Council.

On 23rd November 2012, Michael O´Donovan (44) from Aghabullogue in County Cork was fatally injured while helping to clear pine trees at the Carr’s Hill pumping station at Arderrig. Michael – who was an employee of Cork County Council – had been standing behind the digger being used to fell a fifty-foot-high Scots pine. But, as the tree fell, it landed on a telephone cable. The pole supporting the cable snapped and hit Michael on the head as it fell.

An ambulance was summoned and Michael was resuscitated. However, the head injuries he sustained were fatal, and he died later that day in hospital. An inquest into the fatal accident returned a verdict of accidental death, but the jury was critical of the “careless and reckless” manner in which the task had been performed and made recommendations about how tree felling operations should be conducted in the future. The recommendations have since been adopted.

Cork County Council was subsequently prosecuted for three health and safety failings, and fined €48,000 by Cork Criminal Court in February 2016. Following the conviction, Michael´s wife – Yvonne – and her three children claimed compensation for a fatal accident at work. Incredibly, Cork County Council denied liability for Michael´s death and contested their claim on the grounds he had contributed to the tragedy by his own lack of care.

The civil hearing to resolve the claim took place last week at the Circuit Civil Court before Mr Justice Robert Eagar. The first day of the hearing, the court heard about the circumstances of the accident and, on day two, was told that Cork County Council was prepared to admit liability and the hearing could proceed for the assessment of damages only. After hearing actuarial evidence on behalf of the family, Judge Eagar awarded the family almost €810,000 compensation for a fatal accident at work.