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Dental nurse's award increased to €36,000 on appeal, for holiday fall on ramp

A €26,000 award to a holidaymaker who broke her wrist when she fell on a ramp while leaving an apartment building has been increased to more than €36,000 by the Court of Appeal.

Denise Rowley (35), of Drumlonagher, Donegal town, claimed a High Court award of €26,060 did not address the ongoing injury she has suffered, particularly in relation to her duties as a dental nurse.

She had sued Budget Travel, tour operator for the week-long package holiday she took to Gran Canaria, Spain, in 2008.

She claimed that on leaving her accommodation at Vista Oasis Apartments, Maspalomas, on the last day of her holiday, May 11, she was required to descend a dangerously defective ramp. She fell backwards, stretching out her hand and fracturing her right wrist and hurting her back.

Her wrist was put in a temporary cast locally and in a permanent one when she got home. She missed six weeks of work at the time when she was training to be a dental nurse.

Budget Travel denied her claim initially but later accepted liability and the case came before the High Court for assessment of damages only.

The High Court awarded her €20,000 for pain and suffering to date and €5,000 for future pain and suffering, along with €1,060 in agreed special damages.

She appealed and argued the High Court failed to attach sufficient weight to the evidence before it, particularly in relation to the fact that she suffered a considerable amount of pain and has ongoing consequences as a result of the fall.

Four years after the accident, a doctor said her injury was permanent with a risk of arthritis in her wrist in the future, the court heard.

As a dental nurse, her injury continued to affect her in relation to lifting and carrying because it was on her dominant hand, it was also argued.

Budget said the High Court award should not be disturbed.

Today a three-judge Court of Appeal substituted the €5,000 pain and suffering into the future element of the award with a sum of €15,000.

Mr Justice Brian McGovern, on behalf of the appeal court, said the general guidelines on amounts to be awarded in personal injury cases, known as the "book of quantum", states an award of between €19,300 and €36,800 may be made for a minor wrist fracture and up to €27,800 for soft tissue injuries such as wrist sprains.

In this case, it would seem to fit within the definition of a minor wrist injury.

While the €20,000 for pain and suffering to date figure was low, it was not disproportionately low having regard to the fact the fracture was undisplaced and Ms Rowley was not detained in hospital or require surgery, he said.

Medical reports established Ms Rowley had ongoing discomfort with a certain amount of impaired function of the wrist which will be permanent and a small risk of post-traumatic arthritis, he said.

It was important to remember that Ms Rowley was the only witness to give evidence in the High Court which had an opportunity to assess her evidence.

However, it seemed to the Court of Appeal the High Court was in error in awarding only €5,000 for pain and suffering into the future.

It was "disproportionately low" and the Court of Appeal was satisfied to substitute this figure with the sum of €15,000, bringing the total award to €36,050.