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Case of Badly Burnt Woman Highlights Safety and Justice Double Jeopardy for Workers

Case of Badly Burnt Woman Highlights Safety and Justice Double Jeopardy for Workers

The case of a cook badly burnt in an accident at work demonstrates the dangers for workers from proposed government cuts to health and safety cover and from changes "to no win-no fee" arrangements - say Birmingham based DBS Law.

Mrs Sudesh Bala was badly injured while working for Shobha UK Ltd, a catering company in Luton, on 9th October 2010. She received severe burns to her back, buttocks and groin when she slipped into an industrial cooking pot containing 50kg of steaming hot chicken curry.

Mrs Bala was working on an urgent order to serve 500 people at an exhibition in Birmingham's NEC. One of just three staff on the premises, Mrs Bala fell into a cooking pot while alone in the kitchen. She was unable to get out of the pot or get the attention of her colleagues for some 10 minutes.

Mrs Bala's colleagues were afraid to call the emergency services and waited for half an hour for her husband Naresh to come and call an ambulance, he says "I was horrified when I saw how badly hurt Sudesh was, her skin was dripping off her like candle wax". Mrs Bala was taken to Luton and Dunstable hospital where she was assessed and then transferred to a specialist burns unit at Broomfield Hospital in Chelmsford.

Mrs Bala was treated for her injuries with extensive skin grafts. She has been unable to work since the accident and the experience has left her with mental scars on top of the physical ones.

Mrs Bala had worked at the Shobha UK Ltd for 10 years says during this time says she didn't receive any health and safety training at all during her employment and was even required to supply her own safety footwear.

Shobha UK Ltd has since gone into liquidation and Mrs Bala is seeking compensation from Ageas the company's insurers. Ageas is denying liability and the case is likely to go to court.

DBS Law, Mrs Bala's solicitors, has taken her case on a no win no fee basis despite the risk of putting the case in front of a judge when the defendant denies liability. This is only possible because of the existence of a "success fee" paid to lawyers by the insurer if they fail to convince the judge their client was not responsible for the accident.

The Government proposes to abolish this success fee, in its controversial Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Bill, published 21st June. This would increase the financial risk to solicitors and make it harder to take on cases like Mrs Bala's.

DBS Law Managing Director Rob Bhol said, "This is a shocking case, one that demonstrates the dangers working people face where health and safety is neglected.  Sadly we can expect to see many more of these accidents and health and safety inspections are cut by the government and bad employers are free to cut corners to increase profits."

"At the same time government changes to the funding arrangements for compensation cases will severely reduce the number of victims who can get justice after an accident caused by their employer's negligence.


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