Picture this: Matute -v- Medtronic Ireland
By Clare Daly
25 July, 2017
The full case can be accessed at Matute -v- Medtronic Ireland Ltd. & ors  IEHC 431
An Engineer who was refused permission to photograph the Defendant’s premises in the course of an engineering inspection has been granted an order permitting him to re inspect the property, notwithstanding the fact that the relevant portion of the factory being inspected has since been changed. Instead the Defendant factory has been order to re-instate the property at a cost, they claim of €60,000.
Here the Plaintiff had instructed an Engineer to act in a claim being brought against the Plaintiff’s employers, for a repetitive strain injury caused, it is alleged, in the course of his employment. Instead photographs were going to be taken by the defendants employee during the course of a joint engineering inspection and these photographs were then to be forwarded to the Plaintiff’s engineer. However, when the engineer received the photographs it became apparent after enquiries that the photographs provided were not those taken during the course of the inspection and it emerged that they were actually taken by the employee post the inspection for various reasons. The originally captured photographs were then sent to the Engineer however these were sent in a format that was unusable. The Engineer also noted that he had only received some 34 of the photographs initially and subsequently was furnished with the complete set of 61 photographs. He would usually take some 150-200 pictures during the course of an inspection. He also noted that he was not furnished with the photographs for some 12 months. Moreover , the Engineer argued that he had been able to take his own photographs, using his own camera, he would have obtained a far superior pictorial record of the work carried out by the Plaintiff at the relevant workstations. In his Affidavit, the Engineer explained that the Defendant’s employee was not skilled in photography, nor was she skilled in forensic engineering and this coupled with the use of inferior equipment, led to a number of shortcomings and as a consequence the Engineer said he was not able to compile a report in the present circumstances and wished to carry out a new inspection. However the Defendants had changed the Plaintiff’s work station and they argued that the cost of reinstating the workstation to the previous condition would be €60,000. Mister Justice Barr held that it was not appropriate for the defendants simply to refuse the plaintiff’s engineer the opportunity of taking his own photographs in the course of the joint engineering inspection. The Defendant is to reinstate that portion of the defendants’ factory in which the Plaintiff worked, to the condition that it was in at the time of the joint engineering inspection, after which time the opportunity for a further inspection is to be granted with the Engineer to be given the opportunity to take whatever photographs he deems necessary of the system of work carried on thereat. Steps for approving the photographs via the parties solicitors was also outlined by the Court as the Court recognised the Defendants legitimate commercial interest in keeping the processes carried on at the factory, confidential.
Moral of the story: failure to accommodate an inspection, including the taking of photographs, could prove to be a costly mistake. Best to permit the photographs and include an agreement that the photographs which the Engineer intends to use in his report would then be sent to the Defendants. As set out by Mr Justice Barr herein, if the Defendants have a difficulty with the content of any of the photographs, they can, through their solicitor, suggest modifications to the photographs to protect the confidentiality of their manufacturing processes.