(This account is based on our client Pauline Bowen’s version of events, some of which is disputed. Pauline has kindly given permission to use her details. Other names changed.)
Mrs Bowen instructed Donoghue Solicitors to bring an accident at work claim after falling at HMP Altcourse, a private prison. A District Judge at Liverpool County Court approved a settlement awarding her full compensation plus legal costs. This is how we helped.
Mrs Bowen was 55 at the time of the accident. She had worked for five years in the prison canteen at HMP Altcourse in Liverpool. HMP Altcourse was the first private prison in the UK, and is run by G4S. It houses 1033 young offenders and Category B male prisoners. Pauline worked for a contractor, Aramark, and did whatever had to be done to make sure the canteen ran smoothly.
On the day of her accident this included collecting canteen order sheets from prison staff. Someone else usually did the job, but Pauline was told to do it because her team was short-staffed.
At about 5:45a.m. Pauline left the canteen to collect the sheets, which were left in trays in the small foyers next to three different wings in the prison. The foyers were unlit and behind heavy doors. The floors had rubber mats on them. It was “pitch black” as she went around the prison. She headed to the second wing after collecting the first sheets in a bag, which she held with her right hand. Pauline pushed open the heavy door and stepped into the foyer. She could not see that the rubber mat had crumpled together, possibly because the door caught it. She tripped over the mat and fell forwards. Mrs Bowen instinctively put out her left hand, jarring her wrist and shoulder as she fell.
She screamed in pain.
A prison officer came to find out what had happened. Understandably, Pauline was embarrassed. She told him what happened, took the sheets, and left. Mrs Bowen reported the fall to her supervisor. He sent Pauline home because she was clearly in a lot of pain.
Pauline went to the walk-in centre that day. They recommended she take over-the-counter painkillers. She suffered a sleepless night, then went back to her doctor the following day for stronger painkillers. Pauline could not go back to work for four weeks. She needed her family’s help with personal things like washing her hair. Her mother was ill and Pauline had been caring for her. The injury made that harder.
A doctor later confirmed that Mrs Bowen suffered a soft tissue/ contusion injury and acute strain/ sprain to the left shoulder rotator cuff.
How Donoghue Solicitors Helped
Pauline was injured and out-of-pocket. She wanted compensation to help put her in the position as if the accident had never happened.
We took full details and agreed to act on her behalf on a Conditional Fee Agreement, also known as a “no win no fee” agreement.
But Pauline’s claim was never going to be easy. Accident at work claims rarely are. There were two potential defendants (G4S and Aramark). They were likely to blame each other making proceedings more difficult, lengthy, and complicated. And we expected the defendants would try to pin some, if not all, of the blame for the accident on Mrs Bowen herself.
So it proved.
We submitted details of Pauline’s claim to the defendants. We explained why they were responsible and gave them full details of her claim, which included personal injury damages and lost earnings.
How the Prison Responded
Both G4S and Aramark denied liability and refused to settle her claim. This meant that Pauline had no choice but to issue court proceedings.
Both defendants hired lawyers to represent them. They filed defences formally denying liability, and blamed Mrs Bowen for the accident.
So, we prepared the case for trial. With Pauline’s help we went through the discovery process. (This is where the parties exchange documents they intend to rely on to prove their case.) We worked with Pauline to submit a witness statement and exchanged other evidence, including an expert medical report. Pauline made her own “Part 36” offer to try and settle the claim. (Part 36 offers have financial consequences and can help the parties settle claims.) But Pauline’s offer was ignored. The defendants did not make any offers to settle at any time.
Accident at Work Compensation
On the day of the trial we went to Liverpool County Court with Pauline and her barrister. Mrs Bowen was ready to appear before the judge to argue her case. Perhaps that was why the defendants caved and approached us to see if they could settle the claim. After intense discussions Pauline’s case settled at court. She received full compensation for her injuries, lost earnings, and her legal costs. Most importantly, Pauline was glad that she stood up for her principles, fought the case, and got the justice she deserved.