€3.4m in damages for farm worker injured in New Zealand

A man who suffered a catastrophic injury while working as seasonal farm worker in New Zealand has been awarded €3.4 million damages by the High Court in Dublin.

Padraig Lowry from, Cappalinnan, Rathdowney, Co Laois had his arm amputated after it was sucked into a combine harvester as he tried to clear a blockage in January 2015.

The Irish High Court had been asked to assess damages in the case where judgement had already been granted in Mr Lowry’s favour after the New Zealand defendants did not appear or enter a defence.

Ms Justice Leonie Reynolds said it was clear from the evidence that the contract of employment was entered into in Ireland.

The court was told Mr Lowry had met a representative of the New Zealand company in a Co Meath hotel and was offered a job beginning in October 2014.

Ms Justice Leonie Reynolds said Mr Lowry had suffered a lifelong, life altering and disabling injury which had devastating consequences for him. She said his ability to run the 251-acre family farm in Co Laois had been significantly impaired.

The judge said he requires ongoing medical care and continues to suffer significant pain and discomfort at the site of the injury. His ability to carry out his farming duties has been curtailed and he requires specialised machinery to carry out heavy duty activities, the judge said. She added: “His quality of life has been significantly impaired and he has been precluded from returning to many of his pre-accident recreational activities.”

Mr Lowry had sued Daryl Thompson of Invercargill, New Zealand and D.Thompson Contracting Ltd also of Invercargill, New Zealand as a result of the accident in January 2015.

His solicitor will now seek to have the €3.4million judgement of the Irish High Court enforced in New Zealand.

In a previous hearing the court was told the then 22-year-old met a representative of the New Zealand company in a Co Meath hotel. He was offered a job for October 2014. Three months later the accident happened as he was trying to clear a blockage in the harvester. Other Irish workers had to use their belts to tourniquet Mr Lowry’s arm which was pumping blood.

Five hours after the accident, after Mr Lowry was airlifted to hospital, the harvester was back in use on the farm at Dipton, Southland.

In the proceedings, it was claimed it was an express or implied term of the contract that Mr Lowry would be provided with a safe place of work, a safe system of work and safe equipment and machinery.

It was claimed he was required to operate a machine that was dangerous and defective and the blades on the machine were allegedly permitted to be blunt which it is claimed resulted in the crop being cut too long and therefore blocking the chute.

It was also claimed the wind-down alarm on the machine was disconnected or not operating so as to warn Mr Lowry that the blades were still moving.

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