Sunday 19 February 2017

Legal costs of up to €20,000 awarded against €19-a-week asylum seeker who lost damages claim

By Saurya Cherfi and Ray Managh

Published 12/05/2015 | 14:56

South African Andrew Joseph is awaiting a decision on his asylum request
South African Andrew Joseph is awaiting a decision on his asylum request

Legal costs of up to €20,000 were awarded against a €19-a-week asylum seeker who today (Tuesday) lost a damages claim for personal injury against the State and a catering company.

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South African Andrew Joseph, who is awaiting a decision on his asylum request, claimed he injured himself in a bathroom in February 2012, due to the negligence of those responsible for the Refugee and Asylum Seeker Centre in Swords,.

Joseph claimed that after using the toilet facilities, he had slipped on a plastic bag on the wet floor, smashing a number of his ribs when he fell against a wash basin.

Barrister Timothy Sheehan, counsel for Joseph who now lives in a Refugee and Asylum Seeker Centre in Galway, told the Circuit Civil Court that residents at the Swords Centre regularly washed their smalls in the bathroom concerned and Mr Joseph believed the plastic bag had been dropped by one of them.

Judge James O’Donohue, dismissing Joseph’s €38,000 damages claim because of what he described as “a lack of credibility” in his evidence, said he felt the matter of the plastic bag had been an afterthought.

He awarded costs against Joseph in favour of the two defendants, the Minister for Justice, Equality and Defence and East Coast Catering Ireland Ltd, with an address at Ground Floor, Block 2, Quayside Business Park, Dundalk, Co Louth.

The judge suggested that since Mr Joseph was on asylum seekers allowance of only €19 a week, there was little chance that he would be able to pay the costs.

Barrister Conor Kearney, counsel for the defendants, had argued that his clients had only become aware of Mr Joseph’s alleged accident when they received his solicitor’s letter.

Mr Kearney said the defendants denied residents washed their undergarments in the bathroom as the Centre offered full laundry facilities.  Judge O’Donohue said he was satisfied the Centre had a proper cleaning schedule in place, and it was “highly unlikely” that Mr Joseph had slipped on a plastic bag.

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