Sunday 4 December 2016

Two companies and engineer must indemnify the operators of a DIY shop for €750,000 settlement for a fatal accident in which a wall fell on a customer, High Court rules

Published 16/04/2015 | 17:21

A section of a 6.5m-high internal wall collapsed in the Connacht Gold Co-Op Society's DIY and Garden Centre at Athlone Road, Longford, on January 29, 2013.  
A section of a 6.5m-high internal wall collapsed in the Connacht Gold Co-Op Society's DIY and Garden Centre at Athlone Road, Longford, on January 29, 2013.  

TWO companies and an engineer must indemnify the operators of a DIY shop for a €750,000 settlement for a fatal accident in which a wall fell on a customer in the store, the High Court ruled.

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Sean Mulleady (48) died along with another man, and several other people were seriously injured, when a section of a 6.5m high internal wall collapsed in the Connacht Gold Co-Op Society's DIY and Garden Centre at Athlone Road, Longford, on January 29, 2013.  

The wall was hit by a strong gust of wind when a door in the building was opened.

Teresa Mulleady, the widow of Mr Mulleady, of Creenagh, Longford, bought and settled a High Court action for alleged negligence against a number of parties for €750,000.

Mr Justice Michael Peart (April 16) gave his decision on who should pay the compensation.

In a statement afterwards, Mrs Mulleady said while the court decision "does not bring closure",  it does at least bring "some accountability as to date nobody was prepared to admit any responsibility."

Mrs Mulleady sued the store's tenant Aurivo Cooperative Society (formerly Connacht Gold), the owners of the premises Vincent Ruane Builders Ltd, as well as Vincent Ruane Construction Ltd, who built the premises.

Proceedings were also brought against Simon Beale, trading as Simon Beale and Associates, who was the project manager engaged by the Co-op to prepare plans and specifications while works were carried out at the premises.

The defendants all denied liability.

Aurivo sought a declaration from the court it was entitled to an indemnity from the other defendants in respect of certain losses and damages.

Mr Justice Peart  ruled Mr Beale must indemnify Aurivo.

The other two defendants, both owned by developer and builder Vincent Ruane, must share some of the responsibility for what happened and must each provide an indemnity of 20 per cent each to Mr Beale, he said.  

The Judge said none of the parties involved contended the wall as constructed was safe.

"The evidence against such a contention is overwhelming" he said.  A strong gust of wind, when an external door was open, caused the wall to collapse, he said.

Had the wall been constructed with appropriate supports the fatalities and injuries "would not have occurred, the Judge said. 

Having heard expert engineering evidence, the judge said to allow the wall to be constructed without any support of any kind across the entire span of the building up to roof level was "grossly negligent" and created "a danger to anyone who might be in the premises."

He was satisfied Aurivo was entitled to be fully indemnified in respect of all claims by Mr Beale.

It was he who was engaged by Aurivo and whose negligence caused the wall to be constructed in a way which exposed users of the premises to a risk of serious injury.

The Judge also found Mr Beale was entitled to a contribution firstly from Vincent Ruane Builders because it must be considered to have directed Vincent Ruane Construction to deviate from the plans without any consultation with Mr Beale or the co-op.

The Judge also ruled the co-op is entitled to bring a claim for €210,000 losses in respect of damage to its property caused by the collapse.

Following the judgment, Mrs  Mulleady, in a statement issued through her solicitor said: "It certainly gives us no pleasure today to read details of the appalling and bewildering negligence of certain parties outlined in the judgment of Mr. Justice Peart."

"A day does not go by that Sean's kind and loving presence is not missed by myself and our three children.

"He simply went into a shop to make a purchase on and was killed." the statement added.

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