Annette O’Connor, a hairdresser has been awarded €20,000 by the High Court for banging her knee while sitting down in a restaurant to eat dinner. Such a judgment is believed to have serious ramifications or hoteliers and restaurateurs.
The Court heard that Annette O’Connor had been led to a table in the Mullingar Park Hotel restaurant, had waited while the manager pulled out her chair, then sat down and injured her knee as she pulled her chair in towards the table.
Mrs. O’Connor stated that she had been directed to the table setting right over the leg, which was concealed by a table cloth. She claimed that this constituted “a trap” and negligence on the part of the company, Euro Plaza Hotel Limited, which trades as the Mullingar Park Hotel.
Ms O’Connor stated that she had not been given any notice from the manager that the leg of the table was hidden right beneath where she had been directed to sit.
She had originally been awarded €18,000 damages at Mullingar Circuit Court by Judge Doirbhile Flanagan, whose judgment was appealed to the High Court. However, the High Court Judge presiding over the matter, Ms Justice Faherty affirmed the lower court’s finding and increased damages to €20,000 and gave an order for costs.
Ms O’Connor’s defence was one of negligence on the basis that the table set-up constituted a trap or hazard for customers and that their client had been directed to sit in an unsafe position.
It was alleged the hotel had obscured her view of the legs by use of the tablecloth, and had failed to warn her of the presence of the metal leg she struck thus, breaching their duty of care to their patrons. It was also claimed that the table place setting had been prepared in “a reckless or careless and inattentive manner”.
However, witnesses for the Defendant told the court the table was one of a type used all over the world and had been found to be standard in the global catering trade. Also, a forensic engineer stated that if he had been requested to risk assess the dining rooms set up, he would not have directed the hotel staff to warn people about the presence of the table leg under the tablecloth.
Nevertheless, Judge Faherty accepted that it was foreseeable that an incident of this nature could have occurred, and that liability lay with the hotel.
The determination by Justice Flanagan has placed an increased duty of care on hoteliers and restaurateurs to ensure that such accidents and injuries, whether foreseeable or not do not pose a risk of injury to their customers.
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