Appeal court upholds €65,000 award over girl’s ice skating injury
Posted on 26th January 2021 at 20:59
The Court of Appeal (CoA) has upheld a €65,000 damages award made to a girl who was injured when she fell at a skating rink and another person inadvertently skated over the back of her hand.
Aoibhe Naghten, now aged 15, of Summerfield Rise, Blanchardstown, Dublin, had, through her mother Teresa Crowley, sued Cool Running Events Ltd, with offices at Glanmire, Co Cork, operators of the pop-up ice rink at Blanchardstown Shopping Centre on December 30th, 2015.
It was claimed there was overcrowding and inadequate supervision in the ice-rink on the day when 285 people were present for that particular session.
The defendant denied the claims. It pleaded the girl voluntarily assumed the risk of being injured by an established doctrine which states someone who willingly puts themselves in a dangerous situation cannot sue for any resulting injuries.
In July 2018, the High Court’s Ms Justice Bronagh O’Hanlon awarded Aoibhe €65,000 on foot of findings the defendant failed to take reasonable care, was negligent in the safety and management of risk, and the accident was reasonably foreseeable. The defendant also failed to make out a defence under the dangerous situation doctrine and had carried out no proper risk assessment or safety audit, the judge said.
Mr Justice Seamus Noonan, on behalf of the three-judge CoA, upheld the award on Tuesday, saying there was “more than ample evidence” which entitled the High Court judge to conclude the defendant had been negligent and this caused the accident.
While the defendant initially pleaded contributory negligence, this was not an issue during the trial and it followed Ms Naghten was entitled to succeed 100 per cent, he said.
Earlier, the judge said Aoibhe, who was 10 at the time of the incident, went to the ice rink with her mother and older sister having made an online booking. She was described as a proficient skater, having skated a number of times previously. The accident occurred at the end of the session as the skaters were leaving the rink via the single exit.
CCTV footage showed Aoibhe appeared to have been skating towards the exit reasonably close to the barrier.
It showed a large gentleman holding onto the barrier with his back to the rink as she approached to skate behind him. As she did so, his body moved out slightly, whether by design or otherwise, so that she collided with him, the judge said.
This caused her to fall to the ground onto her outstretched hands and it appeared a skater immediately behind her then inadvertently skated over her hand.
She appeared to have suffered fairly significant lacerations to the back of her hands as illustrated in photographs taken very shortly after the accident. She ultimately made a good recovery albeit with a degree of scarring remaining, he said.
Mr Justice Noonan said the High Court made clear and sustainable findings of fact on issues supported by credible evidence and those findings should not be disturbed by the appeal court.
Not a single witness who was present was called by the defence, notwithstanding such witnesses were available and in court, he said.
If the plaintiff’s witnesses were wrong in suggesting the venue was overcrowded, the defendant was perfectly free to call witnesses to rebut that evidence and the failure to do so “speaks for itself”.
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