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Last Updated: Monday, 27 October, 2003, 18:19 GMT
District nurse's back injury payout
Mrs Rowe had a pre-existing spine condition
A former nurse who aggravated a spine condition while tending to a patient has been awarded a total of 47,621.

Joyce Rowe, now 59, from Cwm-y-Glo near Caernarfon, sued Gwynedd Community Health NHS Trust after suffering serious injuries.

She was awarded 10,000 general damages, 27,924 loss of earnings, 4,095 for the fact that she was unable to carry out some every day tasks any more. She will also receive interest of 5,602.

Judge Gareth Edwards QC, who delivered his decision at Mold Law Courts, said he was concerned about the nine year delay in the case.

The court heard how Mrs Rowe had been a State Enrolled Nurse and had worked for more than 30 years as a nurse.

She sued the NHS trust for damages after she says she was instructed to carry out the handling of the patient in a dangerous manner - which was denied by the trust.

The dangers of lifting and handling patients have been well known for many years in the nursing profession
Judge Gareth Edwards QC

Judge Edwards found in her favour and ordered that she be paid 47,621 plus all her legal costs, which have yet to be calculated.

Giving his judgement, the judge said that the dangers of lifting and handling patients was well-known.

In December 1995 Mrs Rowe was helping an elderly woman use a commode at her home when the injury occurred.

The injury accelerated a pre-existing spine condition by about five years, rendering her unfit for work.

Mrs Rowe had used a method of rocking the patient from side to side to help adjust the woman's clothes - something which had been demonstrated to her.

Mrs Rowe had used the same method several times, without realising it was dangerous to herself.

Instruction given

The trust denied liability and claimed that she was not shown to use that method of dressing the patient as a safe method, but the judge said that he found as a fact that she had.

Primary liability was awarded against the trust after the judge said that she had simply been doing what she had been instructed to do.

"What she had been instructed to do was unsafe," the judge said.

"The dangers of lifting and handling patients have been well known for many years in the nursing profession," he said.

"It was the health trust's duty to be aware of those dangers."

The judge said that it had been suggested by the trust during the hearing that there had been contributory negligence, in that Mrs Rowe was a nurse of 30 years experience who would have received training in the lifting and handling of patients.

She should have been aware of the dangers, especially as she had a vulnerable back, the trust argued.

But the judge said that he rejected that argument and had found that she was following her instructions.

The 10,000 damages award was made up of 2,000 a year for a unpleasant pain and disability that she would not otherwise have had. The loss of earnings had previously been agreed.

The judge said that it was a relatively modest amount but added that it was a fact of legal life that the level of damages "for personal injury in this country is extremely modest."

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04 Oct 01  |  England
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28 Nov 00  |  Wales

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