Man (41) loses €60k claim against South Dublin County Council after footpath fall

A 41-year-old unemployed man, who fractured his right wrist after stepping in an uncovered water hydrant box, has lost a €60,000 damages claim in the Circuit Civil Court against South Dublin County Council.

James Spellman claimed that during the night of December 21, 2011, he was walking on the footpath at Rossfield Close, Tallaght, Dublin, after having been drinking at a friend’s house, when he suddenly stepped in the box and fell heavily on his right side.

Spellman told barrister John Doherty, counsel for the local authority, that he felt pain to his wrist and face and had been in shock.

He had walked home to Kilmartin Drive, Tallaght, before being taken to the Emergency Department of the Adelaide and Meath Hospital in Tallaght by a friend.

Circuit Court President Mr Justice Raymond Groarke heard that X-rays revealed a fracture of his wrist. Spellman said a wound above his right eye was stitched and a cast was applied to his wrist. He had removed the cast himself after a few weeks.

Mr Doherty, who appeared with Good & Murray Smith solicitors, said South Dublin City Council, denied liability and claimed it had not been aware the box cover was missing as there had not been any report about it.

Counsel said the local authority relied on a High Court decision by Mr Justice Michael Peart in the case of Gaffey (a minor) v Dundalk Town Council.

Judge Peart had found that it could “not be reasonable for the Council to have imposed upon it a duty to ensure that the lids are at all times in place on hydrants in the town – the more so in the absence of any information being given to them that lids are being removed.”

Judge Groarke said that even though Mr Spellman’s recollection of the incident was unclear the court was satisfied he had suffered a very nasty injury.

The judge said that even if he accepted Mr Spellman’s account, he had to rely on the High Court decision and therefore dismiss Mr Spellman’s claim.

Maura Hurley Solicitors is a personal injury solicitor. 

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