A Laois farmer has been awarded €3.4m in damages by the High Court after part of his arm had to be amputated following an accident involving a combine in New Zealand.

Padraig Lowry was 22 when he travelled to New Zealand in October 2014 for seasonal farming work and entered into a contract with Daryl Thompson’s company D Thompson Contracting Limited.

In evidence, Lowry told the court that there was a problem with the combine harvester that he was operating.

“It became apparent that there was a blockage in the chute. He stated that he switched off the machine and got the appropriate tools to rectify the problem,” the judgment from Justice Leonie Reynolds states.

“Unfortunately, a safety alarm which should have alerted him to the fact that there were dangerous moving parts still whirling in the machine malfunctioned and/or had been deactivated.

“In any event, as the plaintiff sought to remove the oats wedged in the harvester, his right arm was sucked into the moving parts of the machine, thereby causing his right hand and lower arm to become entangled, with devastating consequences,” the document states.

Pain

He said he suffered excruciating pain and that he went into shock. He was transferred to hospital by local air ambulance and, in hospital, his right arm below the elbow was amputated. He returned to Ireland three weeks later to the National Rehabilitation Centre.

Lowry stated that he found his return home to Ireland exceptionally difficult, as he was acutely conscious of the loss of his lower arm.

The court judgement states that he continued to suffer from severe pain, particularly when his morphine was switched to a milder and less potent opiate, resulting in worsening pain.

He is from a 251ac dairy, cattle and tillage farm in Laois and after his stint in New Zealand, he said in evidence that it was always his intention to return home to assist his father, eventually taking over the running of the farm from him.

“The reduced function of his right arm has greatly impacted upon his ability to carry out many of his pre-accident farming activities.

“Matters were further compounded by his father’s untimely death in 2018. He stated that dairy farming was no longer viable, as he was unable to carry out any husbandry duties and whilst his focus then turned to tillage, only 60% of the land was suitable for that purpose,” the court documents state.

In evidence, prosthetist and orthotist Breda Clancy gave evidence of Lowry’s needs going forward, totalling figures into the thousands. Agricultural consultant William J Martin gave evidence of having inspected the family farm and financial accounts for the purpose of ascertaining the extent of farm losses incurred.

Earning potential

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He analysed the farm accounts for the period 2015 to 2020 and stated that the farm has always shown a net profit and is doing extremely well.

In assessing the impact of the plaintiff’s injuries on his farming career and income earning potential, Martin stated that Padraig Lowry has been unable to develop a dairy cow enterprise on the farm and that he is now constrained to operating a dry cattle and tillage system of farming with “the use of suitable machinery capable of being operated with his handicap [and] relying on support labour”.

Nigel Tennant, a consultant actuary, provided an assessment of the financial losses.

He assessed the special damage claim as follows:

  • Past farm losses (including machinery costs and loss of income) - €194,954.
  • Future farm losses (to age 65 at €672 net weekly loss) - €981,120.
  • Future prosthesis costs - €3,651,841.
  • Future medical care (CBT) - €1,500.
  • Damages

    In her ruling, Justice Reynolds awarded Lowry a sum of just over €3.4m. This includes damages for pain and suffering to date (€175,000) and damages for pain and suffering in the future (€75,000), machinery costs to date and into the future (€150,000), €3m for future prothesis costs and future medical care (€1,500).

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