A former pet shop worker has been awarded £700,000 in damages after being left wheelchair-bound through a virus he caught from a parrot.
Glyn Atherton, 35, won a six-year battle for compensation after he contracted the rare condition psittacosis from an African grey called Jack.
Mr Atherton was working as an assistant manager at a branch of the Do It All chain of DIY shops in Nottingham when he was admitted to hospital with “flu-like symptoms”. He returned to work briefly but spent a further six weeks in hospital where he was diagnosed with psittacosis, a form of pneumonia.
When the store was informed of his condition the parrot, which had been on sale in a pet section, had already died and a post mortem examination found it was a victim of the disease.
The virus is believed to have been transmitted to Mr Atherton in dust from sand used in the parrot’s litter.
He developed chronic fatigue syndrome as a result of the infection, which has left him unable to walk more than 20 yards or play with his 12-year-old daughter Nicole.
Doctors have told him that his condition may never improve and he cannot work. His wife Sue, 36, has had to give up her £16,000-a-year job as a personal assistant to act as his full-time carer at their home in Chesterfield, Derbys.
The company, with which he had been employed for 10 years, reached an out-of-court settlement with his lawyers just before the case was to be heard by the High Court in Sheffield.
Mr Atherton had been working as a £16,000-a-year assistant manager at the Bulwell branch for three months in 1999 and regularly walked past the parrot.
He worked part-time at the company’s Belper store for six weeks after his initial stay in hospital and several times had to stop while driving there due to tiredness.
Then Mr Atherton woke up one morning and could not move his arms or legs or speak properly.
About £150,000 of the award is being spent on adapting the house to his needs. He said: “The money is nice but it doesn’t compensate for losing my health. It sounds like a lot but it is going to have to last for the rest of my life.
“One of the worst things is that I’ve not been able pick up my daughter Nicole for years because I just don’t have any strength. Those are the kind of things you just cannot replace with money.” His solicitor, Terry Regan, of Sheffield law firm Wake Smith, said: “The store admitted liability for exposing him to risk of infection. Mr Atherton will not be able to work and has reduced mobility.”
A spokesman for Focus DIY which took over Do It All, which has not sold pets since September 2004, said: “The case has been concluded and we have no further comment to make.”