Here We Go Again: Compensation Culture? What Compensation Culture?

The compensation culture debate rages on with the news in the Daily Mail that a nurse is claiming from a man at whose house she was injured – despite the fact that he is now dead.

Penelope Snelson, 37, is a district nurse who paid visits to cancer sufferer Mike Fountain at his home in Cheadle Hulme, Cheshire while he was still alive.

On one occasion, as she was leaving his house, she slipped and twisted her ankle as she was attempting to make her way down a makeshift wheelchair ramp. This ramp had been erected by Mr Fountain’s son Graeme using an old garden gate and was apparently slippery when Ms Snelson suffered her injury.

A week later Mr Fountain Snr succumbed to the multiple-organ cancer which had afflicted him for several years. After he had passed away, his widow Christine received a letter addressed to her late husband, informing him that Ms Snelson was lodging a personal injury claim against them for not keeping their property in a safe manner for public use.

It is here that the debate attracts two very strong sets of views.
The Daily Mail, being a right-wing paper, obviously words it articles in a manner carefully designed to provoke rage amongst its middle-class, conservative demographic.

Its online edition allows users to post their reactions to the story, and other users can then give them a ‘green arrow’ if they agree with the comment’s sentiment, or a ‘red arrow’ if they don’t. These arrows are tallied to give a general idea of the opinions of the majority reading the paper.

Most of the comments were along the lines of ‘how can this callous woman sue a dead man’s family so shortly after he died? What is wrong with her? She should be hung, drawn and quartered!’

Well, not quite. But something along those lines.
The several comments that attracted the red arrows also make plenty of sense, of course. There are two sides to every story, and the quiet voices of reason, shouted down by the majority, make the point that: yes, to send a letter to the dead man himself is insensitive. That seems to be the main gist of the article.

When it comes to the actual matter of the claim itself, then there is less for the readership to get their teeth into.

The fact of the matter is that, no matter how distasteful some may find it, a person injured in more than a trifling manner is entitled to claim compensation.

Ms Snelson has been been injured severely enough to warrant six weeks off work, says the article, and this is due to the Fountains erecting a shoddy and makeshift ramp that was not fit for the purpose of welcoming a member of the healthcare services into their home.

One commentator makes the point that, if this ramp could injure an able-bodied woman in her thirties, then what harm could it have inflicted on a disabled cancer sufferer or his elderly wife?

The family were also asked to remove it by their local primary care trust, but did not. Graeme Fountain had also fallen on the ramp previously.

The basic facts of the story are this: if the nurse has missed work, and therefore lost earnings as a result of her accident, then she is at least entitled to make a claim. Whether she will win her case is another matter entirely.

The individual circumstances of this case do seem slightly unsavoury, granted. Six weeks does seem to be a long time to stay off work just because of a sore ankle and the letter to Mr Fountain Snr does seem a little uncalled-for.

But, as even Graeme Fountain himself admits, the overriding principle of this law cannot be ignored. BOLA TANGKAS