The Malta Independent 25 June 2024, Tuesday
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Paralysed fish farm diver wins over €500,000 in damages

Tuesday, 14 March 2023, 13:39 Last update: about 2 years ago

A fish farm diver who ended up paralysed from the waist down in April 2012 after a deep-sea work dive was awarded over €500,000 in damages by a court.

The court, presided by Mr Justice Francesco Depasquale, heard how Frederick Catania suffered from spinal decompression, after a 71-metre dive to work on cages belonging to Ta’ Mattew Fish Farms Limited.

The incident left him with a permanent 75 per cent disability and unable to work. He sued his employer for damages, arguing the company had had failed to ensure a safe system of work. The company counter argued that Catania had been paid his dues as well as some additional payments as a form of “charity”.

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The court heard how Catania would frequently dive to extreme depths to work on the fish farm cages. He used to be provided with a standard oxygen tank, rather than specialised helium-rich ‘trimix’ cylinders used.

A medical expert concluded that Catania’s decompression sickness was the cumulative result of multiple deep-sea dives, and not just as a result of that fateful dive in April 2012.  

Catania was given the wrong form of oxygen when he resurfaced and it took barge crew around one and a half hours to get him to hospital.

The doctor responsible for the case testified that he was upset that it took so long for the patient to be transported to hospital.

“I was waiting for him to arrive, and when after 30 minutes he hadn’t I called the mobile that had reported the case. They told me they were heading back to shore on a barge, and I got very upset… I told them I would have expected you to already be on the road to hospital, not 8 miles offshore,” the doctor testified.

“I remember I made a big fuss about this, about the importance of having an urgent means of transport for such cases. I had already made it clear to them in the first phone call,” he said.

The court concluded that there had been no safe system in place to protect workers adequately. This included the non-existence of an organised structure to handle emergencies.

It ruled that Ta’ Mattew Fish Farms was singularly responsible for the April 6, 2012 incident that left him paralysed.

Catania was awarded €534,000 in damages, together with interest accrued from November 2015 to date. Ta’ Mattew Fish Farms Limited was also ordered to pay court fees.

The amount was calculated based on Catania’s average annual income of €25,317, a yearly cost of living increase of €300, the fact that the incident robbed him of 25 years of work and the 75 per cent disability calculated by experts.

 

 

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