The High Court has awarded a 36 year old school teacher who suffered a serious injury to her right ankle when she was caused to fall down steps at a Dublin Restaurant on the 3rd October 2009, the total sum of €97,000 damages. Sinead McDonald claimed in her High Court proceedings that her accident was caused by the negligence of the Occupiers of the Restaurant and by the negligence of a third named Defendant, a Firm of architects who designed the interior of the Restaurant.
The accident occurred when the Plaintiff was exiting the Restaurant joining her friends outside. The Plaintiff put her right foot forward intending to place it on steps below the upper floor level but her right foot over shot the step. The Plaintiff fell down the stairs and suffered a very serious fracture of her right ankle. The Plaintiff was subsequently brought by Taxi to St. Vincent’s Hospital where she was treated appropriately. The Plaintiff claimed that the accident was caused by the negligence and breach of duty of the Defendants in failing to take reasonable care to ensure her safety while in the Restaurant, in failing to have provided a hand rail on the steps and in failing to provide adequate lighting to illuminate the steps on which she fell.
The Judge was not satisfied that the Plaintiffs fall was caused by a lack of visibility on the steps but the real problem, so far as the Plaintiff was concerned, was the absence of a handrail. The Judge found that had that been there that even if the Plaintiff had missed her first step the hand rail would have confined her mishap to a harmless stumble and prevented it becoming a dangerous free fall resulting in the serious injury that she suffered. Judge O’Neill found that had there been a hand rail at the steps that the Plaintiff would have not of suffered the Injuries she did. The Judge stated in his decision ‘’hand rails are a common item of internal architecture and encountered in almost all places and buildings to which the public have access and where steps must be negotiated. In my opinion, it must have been readily foreseeable to the Defendants as experienced Restaurant owners that the absence of a hand rail on the steps would result in someone having a bad fall resulting in serious injury’’.
The Judge concluded that the occupiers of the Restaurant failed in their duty to take reasonable care to ensure the safety of the Plaintiff while in the Restaurant in not having a handrail at this location. The Judge also found the third named Defendants who were the architects who designed the interior of the Restaurant liable and he apportioned fault between the occupiers of the Restaurant and the Architects 50% between them.
In awarding general damages as the Plaintiff suffered a significant ankle fracture that had a risk of suffering from arthritis in the future the Judge awarded general damages for pain and suffering from the date of the accident to the date of Trial of €45,000 and a sum of €50,000 general damages for future pain and suffering.