Saturday 1 October 2016

Man who had neck slashed at cousin's wedding loses claim against hotel

Tim Healy

Published 19/05/2015 | 17:24

Tomas Connors, of The Paddocks, Kilcock, Co. Kildare, leaving the High Court, after he lost his case against Lumville House Hotel, Co. Kildare. PIC: COURTPIX
Tomas Connors, of The Paddocks, Kilcock, Co. Kildare, leaving the High Court, after he lost his case against Lumville House Hotel, Co. Kildare. PIC: COURTPIX

A man whose neck was slashed when a fight erupted at a Traveller wedding has lost a legal action for damages against the hotel where the function took place.

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Thomas Connors (22),  of The Paddocks, Kilcock, Co Kildare, was 14 when he attended a cousin's wedding at the Lumville House Hotel in the Curragh, Co Kildare, where he was attacked during a "stampede" of people trying to get out of the function room where a free-for-all broke out, the High Court heard.

He sued hotel proprietor Michael Lambe over the incident on November 27, 2006, which he said left him with a scar on the back of his neck and led to him having nightmares for two years. 

It was claimed there was a failure to prevent access to the function by unruly people or have proper security in place.

It was also claimed that because his cousins had paid a €1,000 breakage deposit, the hotel should have had security in place.

The Lambe family, who have run the hotel since 1971, denied the claims and said although there had been trouble at one previous Traveller wedding, they had an unwritten policy not to put in security because they believed it was not required as it was a family function.

The case was originally brought in the Circuit Court where it was dismissed.

It was appealed before President of the High Court Mr Justice Nicholas Kearns who also dismissed the action.

Tomas Connors, of The Paddocks, Kilcock, Co. Kildare, leaving the High Court, after he lost his case against Lumville House Hotel, Co. Kildare. PIC: COURTPIX
Tomas Connors, of The Paddocks, Kilcock, Co. Kildare, leaving the High Court, after he lost his case against Lumville House Hotel, Co. Kildare. PIC: COURTPIX

The judge said nothing could have been done to avoid what was "an outbreak of savagery" that night.

It was fair to describe the scene afterwards as one of devastation with photos showing blood on the walls, chairs and tables upturned and glass everywhere, he said.

He agreed with a description of the function room having been "wrecked" given by the owner's daughter, Lisa Lambe, who he found a very impressive witness.

He praised  the Lambe family for the non-discriminatory way in which they treated the cousins of Mr Connors who had booked the wedding.

He said the hotel made no presumptions about those booking the event and did "not treat them as guilty" just because they were members of the Travelling Community.

It was most unfortunate the Lambes had to go through two court cases to be vindicated but they were now, he said.  He awarded costs against Mr Connors whose case had been brought by his mother Joan as he was a minor at the time it was initiated.

Thomas Connors, who is now a married father of one, told the court there were around 70 people at the dinner reception earlier in the day and around 150 later in the evening, some of whom he believed were gatecrashers. 

There had been a smaller incident around 6pm involving a couple of men when some glasses were broken but that ended quickly.

At around 10pm, a big row broke out and everybody tried to squeeze out the one door at the same time when he was grabbed from behind by someone unknown while someone else slashed him with either a knife or a bottle, he said.

He had to take refuge in the toilets along with others.

He also said he had been served two or three "Fat Frog" alcoholic cocktail drinks that night despite the fact that he was only 14.   The hotel denied that claim.

Lisa Lambe told the court that she and staff had to barricade themselves into the lounge until the gardai arrived.

Mr Justice Kearns, in dismissing the claim, said it was suggested  the hotel should have "geared up" for trouble because of what a security consultant, called by the Connors side, described as "fracas being part and parcel of Traveller weddings".

The Lambes took the most honourable course and made no assumptions about this family who it was assumed were the best of people coming to enjoy the wedding, he said.

It was not his experience that bouncers were required at weddings, whatever about them being required for dances going on into the small hours.

He also rejected the claim the hotel should have been on alert because of the minor incident around 6pm, which there had been no complaint about.

"There was nothing to suggest what happened four hours later was going to erupt", he said.

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