Earring back injury case: Safaa Pate in £1m claim

House of Fraser, High Wycombe
Image caption The incident took place in the Coast section of the House of Fraser store in High Wycombe

A manager is suing her employers for more than £1m because she received back injuries picking up an earring.

Safaa Pate, 31, from Bray in Berkshire, has no feeling in her left leg and foot after the incident at the High Wycombe branch of House of Fraser.

The writ lodged at the High Court says it happened after she dropped the item and retrieved it from under a display.

The owner of the concession, Coast Fashions Ltd, of Stanton Harcourt, Oxfordshire, denies any wrongdoing.

It added that she "should have used a stick" to retrieve the earring from under the display unit - known as a gondola - and that she was "the author of her own misfortune".

Caroline Allen, barrister for Coast Fashions Ltd, said Ms Pate was making a "large damages claim" in excess of £1m.

'Clicking noise'

Ms Pate claims she underwent a spinal fusion operation and has not been able to work since the accident in January 2009.

In the writ, barrister Caroline McColgan said Ms Pate was carrying out a stock take within the Coast section of the shop when she dropped the jewellery.

It reads: "She bent down and put her hand under the gondola in order to retrieve the earring. However, it had landed too far in from the edge and she was unable to reach it without moving the gondola out of the way.

"As she did so she heard a clicking noise and felt her back give way.

"She experienced increasing levels of pain over the course of the day. When it became unbearable she was compelled to leave work and attend hospital for treatment."

The barrister claims the employer was guilty of breaches of the Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 and the Manual Handling Operations Regulations 1992.

Defending the action at the pre-trial review, lawyers for Coast Fashions Ltd said: "Ms Pate's work was light work. She had to move clothes... but she was not required to lift or carry anything of substance.

"It is denied she was required to move the gondolas or that this formed any part of her employment. It was not Ms Pate's responsibility nor part of her job to move the stands and gondolas.

"It is denied it was sensible or reasonable or other than a breach of her own duty to take care to try to push or move the gondola to reach the earrings.

"If she proves the earrings fell under the gondola then she should have used a stick... or she should have left them there until help was provided."

The case is expected to be heard by Judge Richard Seymour QC in November.

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