Bin injury fight: Council's massive court bill

Taxpayers will have to pay tens of thousands of pounds in legal fees after a council lost a personal injury claim brought by a worker who hurt herself picking up a bin.

Kirklees Council gardener Hayley Kaye injured her back in 2005 when she was loading rubbish on to a truck while cleaning out a cemetery.

She was awarded more than 2,000 in damages at Dewsbury County Court in June, but the council appealed against the judge's decision to make it pick up the hefty legal costs bill.

On Thursday, a senior judge at the Court of Appeal rejected the council's challenge, saying it should have known the costs could run so high before it decided to fight the case.

Lord Justice Jackson told the court the accident happened on October 4, 2005, when Ms Kaye experienced back pain after picking up a rubbish bin and loading it onto a van. After missing work because of the injury, she took the council to court.

Despite claiming nearly 300,000 for what Ms Kaye's medical expert said were life-long injuries, the county court judge found that her back problem was a temporary complaint and awarded her only 2,197.

But, because the judge found that the council was liable for the injuries, he ordered it to pick up the legal costs of the case - which, following a two-day trial and extensive medical evidence, will run into tens of thousands of pounds.

At the Court of Appeal, Farrah Mauladad, for the council, argued that, because Ms Kaye had been awarded less than one per cent of the damages she originally claimed, she should have been ordered to pay at least some of the costs.

Lord Justice Jackson rejected the council's appeal, saying it could have avoided the weighty legal bill by offering Ms Kaye a settlement before the case came to court.

He said: "I dread to think what costs were run up as this case proceeded towards trial. I much regret to see that no attempt was made by the appellant's liability insurers to settle this action by making a modest offer."

He added: "The damages which the claimant is getting are very small compared to the costs involved.

"Any varying of the costs awarded to the claimant would involve ... paying to the defendant a sum far greater than the damages she has received."

Tony Burdin, chief executive of Sheffield Mutual Friendly Society

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