Tinnitus sufferer sues music shop for £20k

Clashing cymbal gave her ear condition, court is told. Picture: Toby Williams
Clashing cymbal gave her ear condition, court is told. Picture: Toby Williams
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A WOMAN is suing for damages after she claims she was left suffering from tinnitus when a cymbal was struck in a music shop she was visiting.

Dorothy Brannigan maintains that she became aware of pain in both ears immediately on leaving the specialist retailer which sells drums and other percussion equipment.

Mrs Brannigan, 54, has raised an action for £20,000 compensation at the Court of Session in Edinburgh against Kevin Smith, who trades as Perth-based RWJ Drum Store.

She claims that, as she was getting ready to leave with her purchase, Mr Smith struck a large cymbal with force at least twice and said to her: “Imagine that all the time.”

Her counsel, Stephen Laing, told the court: “She went in to buy some earplugs in order to protect her son from tinnitus.”

In the action, it is said that she told Mr Smith that her son, who was taking a sound engineering course, had been suffering from the condition and his doctor had advised he use protection.

It is said that Mr Smith recommended a particular type of earplug and advised they were the kind he used and that he recommended them to students who took drumming lessons above the shop.

“He told the pursuer [Mrs Brannigan] some stories of people he knew in the music industry who had developed tinnitus. He continued to tell the pursuer stories of the bands he had worked with while she paid for the earplugs,” it is said.

It is said that Mrs Brannigan formed the view that Mr Smith was “knowledgeable about sounds and acoustics”.

She maintains that, having made her £15.95 purchase, she turned and walked towards the door of the shop, which had a large display of cymbals next to it, in Atholl Street, Perth, on 
15 February, 2011.

But she alleges that she became aware of Mr Smith rummaging behind the counter, and he shouted at her to wait and walked towards her holding a drum stick.

It is maintained he picked up a large cymbal from the display and was standing about six feet from Mrs Brannigan who had turned to face him.

It is said: “He lifted the cymbal up to around level with the pursuer’s ear with his arm outstretched. The cymbal was approximately four to five feet way from the pursuer’s ear. Without giving the pursuer warning, the defender proceeded to strike the cymbal with force at least twice.”

The case is contested and Mr Smith’s lawyers have answered Mrs Brannigan’s pleadings with a denial. He maintains that he is not liable in the action.

Mrs Brannigan, of Perth, said that after she got home she became aware of ringing in her left ear which became louder. Over the next few days, she developed a faint ringing in her right ear which increased in the weeks to come.

She tried to go to work as a nursery assistant but struggled because the noise aggravated her tinnitus. The condition also made it difficult for her to sleep.

Mrs Brannigan is seeking compensation for her pain and suffering. Lawyers acting for Mr Smith say that the sum sued for is excessive.

The case continues.