Reporter for the New Zealand Herald

$5000 for crushed spine

McDonald's has given $5000 to a man who can't walk after he crushed his spine tripping on a kerb outside one of its restaurants.

Last August 46-year-old Andy Beech was walking to the Whangarei McDonald's carpark after having lunch with his brother Barry.

He tripped on a concrete kerb that encroached 40cm on to a pedestrian crossing between the store's drive-through lanes.

He broke his nose, gashed his forehead, and damaged his spine so severely that he lost motion and sensation in his arms and legs.

Andy is now confined to a wheelchair and is living in a rest home in Dargaville.

McDonald's offered the money as "a genuine gesture of goodwill".

"We hope you feel that we have recognised the impact of the accident on Andy and the Beech family," the firm wrote to Barry. "However, as with all payments of this nature, it is made on a confidential basis without any admission of liability."

McDonald's told the Herald on Sunday a WorkSafe investigation found no wrongdoing on its part but the company felt giving Andy the money was "the right thing to do".

Barry remains unhappy that no one has been held account for the kerb, which he says was "an accident waiting to happen".

"It feels that Andy's life really means nothing," he said.

Andy is autistic but before the fall he lived independently.

The fall and subsequent injuries had broken his spirit, said Barry, who has to take time out from working as a cabinetmaker to make multiple trips to Whangarei.

On reflection we believe our people could have shown better levels of empathy.
McDonald's letter to Barry Beech

For Andy, the impact has been a loss of freedom, but he still holds out hope that he'll be able to live on his own again, close to his brother.

"It was easy before the accident, not quite so easy after the accident. Hopefully soon I'll be able to walk again."

Part of the kerb was removed by McDonald's and the remainder was painted with reflective paint a few weeks after Andy's fall.

An investigation by WorkSafe NZ concluded the fast-food giant could not have anticipated the severity of Andy's injuries.

Documents obtained under the Official Information Act showed that the initial report by McDonald's after the fall was not followed up by WorkSafe as the seriousness and extent of the injuries were not immediately apparent.

In the letter to Barry, McDonald's admitted staff could have dealt with the situation better in the first 24- 48 hours after Andy's fall.

"On reflection we believe our people could have shown better levels of empathy, and once the nature of Andy's injuries became clear, they should have escalated the incident faster."

- Herald on Sunday

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