Store Worker Hurt by Mislabelled Box Receives Compensation from M&S


A store worker whose back was badly hurt as she handled heavy boxes of mislabelled goods has received £35,000 damages, reports the Bristol Post.

Marks and Spencer pays out £35,000
Caroline Sutherland, from Flax Bourton near Bristol, was unloading a cage of what she thought were pillow boxes in the homewear department of Bath Marks and Spencer.

She was hit by a falling 30kg box of 4 marble parasol bases which had been mislabelled.

No signage on toppling box

Instructed to unload cages early in the morning prior to the store opening, Ms Sutherland was on the shop floor working on her own. Thinking the boxes contained light bedwear as normal, she pulled one towards her.

"There were no markings on the side, no signage at all," Ms Sutherland said. "I realised when it was too late that it was something very heavy."

"It just came down and toppled the stack of boxes."

In great pain and in shock, Ms Sutherland tried to continue her work before first aid treatment was given. Meanwhile, shop colleagues were hastily told to mark the boxes correctly with laminated labels.

"They even asked me to do it. I said no," she said.

Off work – and later resigned

The 52-year-old was forced off work for 8 months before returning to another department at the same store. Still in great pain, however, she later quit her job at M&S altogether.

The retail giant conceded responsibility for the CCTV-recorded accident, which occurred in April 2008. However Ms Sutherland, who suffered acute back strain and is now severely restricted in what she can physically do, was forced to wait for many months for what the claimant described as "measly" compensation.

Ms Sutherland said her payout amounted to just £1,000 yearly if she lived to her eighties and would hardly be enough to "cover a chiropractor, let alone to live on".

"Disgusted" at treatment

"My entire life has been ruined by Marks and Spencer's incompetence," she said. "I am utterly disgusted at how I have been treated and it saddens me because my choices and ability to work have been restricted."

Simpson Millar LLP's Emma Costin, who though unconnected with this case specialises in pursuing claims for workplace personal injury, said the treatment Ms Sutherland had received from her employer underlined the importance of professional legal help.

"Employers' lawyers will obviously do whatever they can to help their clients in such cases," Emma said.

"And even where the liability is clear – as in Ms Sutherland's case – it's vital that a claimant instructs a solicitor who is well-versed in employment and Health & Safety law. To navigate this difficult area takes a real expert."

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