Artist brings claim after severing finger during work experience

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Katie, who is the Claimant, is arguing that her ambitions for a film industry career were destroyed when her left index finger was sliced off when using a machine at work that did not have a guard on it.

Katie at first instance was awarded £80,000.00 on account of her injuries and her financial losses. She has now appealed this decision and asked the Court to consider the question of what constitutes being disabled. She is seeking £280,000.00. Although surgeons were able to save her finger as a result of the accident she has been left with limited function in it which is described as being ' more a hindrance than a help'.

It is her case that she is unable to pursue the career she had intended to as a model maker and has been left disabled as a result of her injuries.

The Judge at first instance stated that he could see little difference in quality between the work she could undertake now and her earlier work. He did not detect that she had lost any of her artistic flair or skill. He added "I do not for one moment trivialise the injury, nor its consequences, but it is plain to me from what I have observed that the index finger is an inconvenience rather than a disability."

As a result the court found both as a matter of fact and law that Katie did not fulfil the criteria of a disabled person. This had an impact on the amount of future loss of earnings that she recovered. The Court found that a career in model making was beyond her not because she lacked skill but because she had lost motivation due to the accident. The Court accepted evidence from a visiting tutor who had worked on the set of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory with a model maker who had a prosthetic hand.  Further the Court found that Katie could earn as much in another field of employment as she would have as a model maker.

Katie's lawyers are arguing that this decision was wrong. Her barrister has stated: 'The judge appears to have wrongly concluded that, because the claimant can and does still do things, including with her injured hand, and because she can continue to do things in part by avoiding use of that hand, then she is not to be regarded as "disabled" for these purposes.'

Judgment on appeal has been reserved. It will be interesting to read once handed down and will give guidance on when claimants can be considered to be disabled. I will blog again once it is available.

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