The Court of Appeal (CoA) has upheld a €65,000 award to a 10-year-old girl who was injured when she fell at a skating rink and another patron skated over the back of her hand.
Aoibhe Naghten, now aged 15, of Blanchardstown, Dublin, 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 30, 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 alleged 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 (the doctrine of “volenti non fit injuria”).
In July 2018, the High Court’s Ms Justice Bronagh O’Hanlon awarded her €65,000 after finding 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 the defence under the dangerous situation doctrine and had carried out no proper risk assessment or safety audit, the judge said.
On Tuesday, Mr Justice Seamus Noonan, on behalf of the three-judge CoA, upheld the award 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.
He said while the defendant had initially pleaded contributory negligence, this was not an issue during the trial. It followed Ms Naghten was entitled to succeed 100pc.
Earlier, the judge said Ms Naghten went to the ice rink with her mother and older sister having made an online booking. She was described in court as a proficient skater, having done it 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 Ms Naghten 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 ice 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. It would appear a skater immediately behind her then inadvertently skated over her hand, he said.
She appeared to have suffered fairly significant lacerations to the back of her hands as illustrated in photographs taken very shortly after the accident showed, he said.
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 that were supported by credible evidence and which should not be disturbed by the appeal court.
The defendant’s case was that the High Court findings of fact should be set aside and the evidence of the witnesses who testified in that court ignored simply by viewing the video evidence and drawing conclusions. That was impermissible, the judge said.
He also said not a single witness who was present was called by the defence, notwithstanding that such witnesses were not only available but actually present in court.
If the plaintiff’’s witnesses were wrong in suggesting that the venue was overcrowded, the defendant was perfectly free to call witnesses to rebut that evidence. The failure to do so speaks for itself, he said.