Monday 19 August 2019

Australian tourist who fell down stairs in National Museum awarded €67,000 by High Court

Warren Baldwin of New South Wales, Australia, who sued the National Museum of Ireland as a result of the fall on June 5, 2016. Picture: Collins Courts
Warren Baldwin of New South Wales, Australia, who sued the National Museum of Ireland as a result of the fall on June 5, 2016. Picture: Collins Courts
Ms Justice Bronagh O'Hanlon
The National Museum of Ireland

Tim Healy

An Australian tourist who fell down stairs at the National Museum of Ireland and injured his leg has been awarded almost €67,000 by a High Court judge.

Warren Baldwin (70) ruptured a leg tendon in the accident.

Ms Justice Bronagh O’Hanlon said the museum’s Portland stone steps were shiny and slippy and he suffered significant trauma, discomfort, inconvenience, expense and upset.

The accident occurred on the second day of Mr Baldwin's trip to Ireland with his wife.

It was caused by negligence in failing to provide a railing for a person to hold on to the entire way down the museum’s seven-step staircase, the judge said.

The pensioner fell on the third last step from the bottom.

The judge accepted the contention that because the railing stopped before the end of the staircase there was a tendency for people to move towards the centre section.

The steps date back to 1890, when the Kildare Street building was constructed.

The wrought-iron bannister topped by a wooden rail ends at the third-last step from the end, where it joins a stone balustrade.

Ms Justice O'Hanlon found that had there been an adequate and safe handrail system on the steps in question, Mr Baldwin would not have been injured.

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The National Museum of Ireland

The museum failed in its duty to take reasonable care to ensure his safety, she said.

CCTV footage of the stairway and fall, the judge said, should have been preserved.

A museum employee who viewed that footage should also have been made available to give evidence.

Mr Baldwin - from Revesby, just outside Sydney, New South Wales - sued the National Museum of Ireland as a result of the fall on June 5, 2016.

More than 470,000 people visited the National Museum in 2016, the year of the accident, and Mr Baldwin was the only person who fell on the marble stairs, it was argued.

He alleged there was a failure to provide adequate hand railing and that the steps had been permitted to become unsafe. He also alleged they were polished smooth from wear and lacked anti-slip measures.

The claims were denied.

The museum contended the stairs were free from defect and there was one handrail.

It also contended there was contributory negligence on the part of Mr Baldwin who, it was claimed, was rushing to descend and was not paying attention.

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Ms Justice Bronagh O'Hanlon

More than 470,000 people visited the National Museum in 2016, the year of the accident, and Mr Baldwin was the only person who fell on the marble stairs, it was argued.

Ms Justice O'Hanlon found no contributory negligence and said Mr Baldwin was a very credible witness, came to court in good faith and travelled from Australia to bring his case to trial.

The case, she said, was a difficult one because Mr Baldwin's recollection of the cause and mechanics of his fall, while inconsistent with the accident report form he filled in, was not inconsistent with the description of his fall when admitted  to hospital.

The final award was €66,989.

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