Finger case is 'compensation culture gone mad', says judge
Published 17/12/2013 | 02:30
A CLAIM for damages over an injury caused to a two-year-old girl when a finger got trapped in the metal lid of a sugar dispenser has been described as "another case of compensation culture gone mad".
The President of the High Court Mr Justice Nicholas Kearns, made the comment when he dismissed an appeal brought over the case, which had been rejected earlier this year in the Circuit Court.
Robyn Behan, who was two years and 11 months at the time, got her finger stuck in an 8mm hole at the top of the dispenser while out for a family meal in Eddie Rocket's restaurant in Blanchardstown, Dublin, in September 2011.
Through her mother, Vanessa, of North Brunswick Street, Dublin, she sued the restaurant chain.
The court heard efforts by restaurant staff to remove it with soap and other lubricants failed.
Her mother told the court blood was pumping from her child's finger. She she was brought by car to Temple Street Children's Hospital where they eventually had to cut the metal lid to remove her finger.
The girl was left with a laceration to the bottom of her finger.
An engineer who gave evidence on behalf of Ms Behan said the dispenser did not comply with EU safety regulations in relation to hazards posed by utensils for children. The hole in question had "a fish-hook effect" once a small finger was inserted, it was claimed.
An engineer for the restaurant disputed this and said there were no regulations relating to sugar dispensers.
Mr Justice Kearns said he had examined Robyn's finger and found her a delightful little girl.
But he said: "Quite frankly, this is another case of compensation culture gone mad concerning an extraordinary suggestion that the restaurant should have warned Robyn's mother when she was being shown to a table that the sugar dispenser had a risk associated with it."
He was quite satisfied that EU law relating to safety of utensils designed for use by children does not include sugar dispensers.
To say restaurants should give specific warnings about such things would be to place a quite unreasonable burden on them, he said.
As he was sure Robyn's mother would know, "you cannot take your eye off small children for a second", he said.
The judge also awarded costs of both the High Court and Circuit Court cases against Ms Behan but suggested the parties may be able to come to some private arrangement whereby only costs from only one hearing might have to be paid.