independent

Sunday 20 April 2014

Mum wins €25k in house mould pneumonia claim

Bea O'Neill: Damages case

A WOMAN who claimed dampness in her council house caused her to develop pneumonia has been awarded €25,000 in damages.

Mother-of-seven Bea O'Neill of Ballinamanagh, Kilcummin, Co Kerry, had been seeking €38,000 in damages from Kerry County Council for personal injuries and damage caused to her furniture.

Yesterday, at Tralee Circuit Court, Judge Thomas E O'Donnell found in her favour and awarded €25,000 and costs.

Judge O'Donnell said he felt the conditions of the house were a contributory factor but not the main factor in her illness that resulted in Ms O'Neill being hospitalised for separate bouts of pneumonia in 2006 and 2007.

During the course of the hearing, the court was told Ms O'Neill was a smoker. The council claimed that Ms O'Neill's actions and poor household management caused the dampness and mould.

Speaking to the Irish Independent following the ruling, Ms O'Neill said she had waited 10 years for her "day in court" and was relieved it was all over.

INSULTING

"To be constantly told it was my fault for not opening widows or lighting fires was so insulting that I felt if I came out with one cent it was important to go ahead with the case," she said. Ms O'Neill said she had to take out loans to replace furniture that wa ruined.

Ms O'Neill moved into the house, also at Ballinamanagh, Kilcummin, in August 2001 with two of her children who were aged three and two at the time. She was also pregnant.

She said she first noticed the condensation that winter but it wasn't until the following winter that she noticed mould and mildew forming on the walls.

Dr David Murphy of Cork University Hospital told the court that mould in a house would be a "significant contributor", combined with smoking, to the development of pneumonia and borderline kidney failure.

Ms O'Neill said despite her complaints to the council that were backed up by letters from her GP, it wasn't until 2010 that she was rehoused.

Consultant engineer William O'Keeffe told the court he didn't consider the house "fit for human habitation" and that Ms O'Neill should have been rehoused "as a priority".

Kerry County Council said it would be appealing the matter because all tenants had a responsibility to maintain their house in good condition.

Irish Independent

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