A FILLING station owner cannot be held responsible after a customer paying for goods at an external security hatch was beaten with a lump hammer by criminals, a judge ruled today.
Leslie Thomas (40) of MacUilliam Avenue, Tallaght, Dublin, told the Circuit Civil Court that a masked man had pointed a gun at the cashier and demanded money or he (Thomas) would “get it.”
He said that shortly after 10pm on December 5, 2010 he had called to Discount Fuels at Jobstown on the old Blessington-Tallaght Road and had just paid for milk and cigarettes when two men approached him from behind.
One, wearing a Hallowe’en mask, pointed the gun through the cash drawer at the cashier, while the other, wearing a hoodie with a scarf around his mouth, started hitting him on the head and face with a lump hammer.
Thomas, who recently underwent brain surgery not associated with the 2010 attack, said the masked men were not given any money and ran off after hitting him a number of times.
He told barrister Desmond Dockery, counsel for the filling station, that the men had not demanded his change from the shopping transaction and his cigarettes. They had wanted money from the till.
Cashier Ahmed Khan told Mr Dockery he was the only staff member on duty and had been securely locked in behind a steel shutter which had a restricted viewing and communication slot through which to speak with customers. He had dealt with Mr Thomas and had passed his goods and cash change through the service hatch drawer.
He could see a man grab and push him and try to get his change. He heard Mr Thomas being hit and he pressed an alarm button and rang 999. No-one had demanded he hand over money from the till although he thought the men may have had a fake gun.
Mr Dockery told the court his client could not be held legally liable for a “reasonably unforeseeable” act of third parties. Mr Khan had immediately raised the alarm.
Judge Matthew Deery said that while everybody would have sympathy with Mr Thomas, who was injured, it would be harsh to attach responsibility to the defendants, Petrogas Group Ltd., which trades as Discount Fuels, for the assault.
Dismissing Thomas’s €38,000 damages for assault claim the judge said it would be difficult to say that what happened had been due to a wrong call and negligent act on the part of Mr Khan. He had not stopped to think he could be shot and injured and had chosen to ring the garda.