Wednesday 12 December 2018

Circus performer 'now scared of cannonball act' withdraws injury claim during cross-examination

Juan Domingo Morales originally from Mexico pictured at the Four Courts today for a High Court action Pic: Collins Courts
Juan Domingo Morales originally from Mexico pictured at the Four Courts today for a High Court action Pic: Collins Courts

Tim Healy

An action for damages by a "human cannonball" circus performer was dramatically withdrawn at the High Court on Wednesday.

Eight-generation circus performer, Juan Domingo Morales, had sued claiming he had been injured when he was propelled from a circus canon but fell short of the safety net in a big top performance in Monaghan ten years ago.

But just over an hour into cross examination by the circus side and after Mr Justice Michael Hanna had given a short recess, Mr Morales withdrew his case.

He had earlier told the court how he is now scared of the cannonball act and he did not have the same power after fracturing his right wrist in the accident.

Mr Morales, who was knocked unconscious, was in hospital for about six days after the accident at a circus in Clones.

"I got in and waited for the countdown from five. I missed the net and landed in the ring.

"I can’t say what happened. I covered my head, after that I can’t remember," he said.

He agreed he was propelled to the correct height but not to the correct distance and said it was like there was “a loss of air” in the canon.

He said: “I have not done the human cannonball since. I am scared. I can't do half of what I was doing before."

Mr Morales (35) from  Tymon Drive, Tallaght, Dublin, had sued John Courtney and Stephen Courtney, the owners and operators of Circus Vegas and American Circus, with registered offices at Earl Street, Longford town.

It was claimed on March 19, 2008 Mr Morales was at work with the circus in Clones when during his performance the canon allegedly malfunctioned and he was propelled causing him to miss the safety net and collide heavily with the metal ring of the performance area.

He claimed there was an alleged failure to provide equipment that was safe and free from defects and an alleged failure to maintain the equipment in a proper manner which would render it from defect.

The claims were denied.

The circus contended Mr Morales was at all times engaged to perform as a human cannonball at circus performances. It contended Mr Morales was expressly required to inspect all equipment used in his performance on a daily basis and to ensure it was safe and fit for use.

On the day of the accident, the circus contended, Mr Morales inspected the canon and concluded it was safe for use.

The circus side argued there was contributory negligence on the part of Mr Morales in that he allegedly failed to take any or any adequate care for his own safety and allegedly failed to carry out a proper inspection of the canon before his performance.

Cross examined by David Nolan SC, for the circus, Mr Morales agreed he fell from the wheel of death at a performance in the UK in 2012.

Counsel put it to him that he climbed on to a wheel of death which was up 30 feet when he was trying to make a case in court that he had a problem with vertigo.

Mr Morales replied it was not 30 feet.

Counsel also put it to him he had been a "Spiderman" trapeze artist just months after the cannonball accident and a video of a circus performance was shown to the court where, counsel said, Mr Morales had no problems with his wrists.

Referring to the wheel of death accident in 2012, Mr Morales said it was because his hand did not respond.

Mr Justice Michael Hanna put it to Mr Morales he was saying the wheel of death accident was because of his wrists failing.

The judge asked would that not be a significant thing "if there was any substance to it" to have said it to his legal team in this action.

"If your wrists contributed to your near death fall, wouldn’t it be the first thing we would have heard about in the case," the judge said before giving a short recess.

When the court resumed after talks between the parties, Richard McDonnell SC, for Mr Morales, said the case could be withdrawn and struck out.

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