Saturday 21 April 2018

Engineers and council to blame for razing home

Long court battle: Brian and Mary O’Shaughnessy
Long court battle: Brian and Mary O’Shaughnessy

Aodhan O'Faolain

The High Court has found consultant engineers and Limerick County Council are jointly liable for the wrongful demolition of a family home during the construction of a new dual carriageway.

Brian and Mary O'Shaughnessy described the destruction of their two-bedroom farmhouse, 'The Hollows' at Annaholty, Birdhill, Co Tipperary, on September 6, 2006, as "a nightmare".

The demolition was to make way for the N7 Limerick to Nenagh dual carriageway. However, the site was never used for the new road.

Mr Justice Donald Binchy said it was "abundantly clear" what happened "was not down to any single act". He found consultant engineers, of a joint venture called RPS Scetauroute, were 70pc responsible while Limerick County Council was 30pc responsible. A third party which carried out the actual demolition was found not to be negligent.

The O'Shaughnessys sought damages for alleged negligence from several parties including the county council and the National Roads Authority (NRA), who it was claimed were both responsible for the operation, design and acquisition of land, and oversaw construction of the scheme.

They also sued RPS Consulting Engineers Ltd and EGIS Route Scetauroute SA (which was a joint venture in the name of RPS Scetauroute JV) which was contracted by the council to carry out certain works on the carriageway. They also sued Midland Fencing Ltd which carried out the demolition works but was not found to be responsible. The defendants all denied negligence.

The council, the NRA, RPS, and Midland all served each other with notices of contribution and indemnity claiming each other was responsible for what happened.

Last January, the O'Shaughnessys settled their action on undisclosed terms. The hearing proceeded to determine which of the defendants was liable.

Giving his decision on that issue, Mr Justice Binchy said the demolition was "as a consequence of a series of acts and omissions in which both Limerick County Council and RPS play a part."

The events leading to the demolition included that an engineer for RPS, following consultations with the county council, had wrongly designated a plot of land, which was to be acquired, as derelict.

Council staff, when looking for a plot of land that matched that description, then mistakenly photographed and labelled the O'Shaughnessys' home, he said.

In early 2006, the council included it on a list of properties to be demolished. The council then provided RPS with the list. The judge said there was a failure by engineers to query why works were being carried out on the house.

The O'Shaughnessys were given no prior notice that the house was to be demolished.

Irish Independent

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