Sunday 22 April 2018

ESB is not liable for huge flood at UCC, court finds

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Tim Healy and Ralph Riegel

The Court of Appeal has overturned a landmark ruling that the ESB was partly liable for the disastrous flooding of Cork city centre in 2009.

The ruling is likely to ease the threat of higher electricity prices to pay for massive pay-outs over flood damage.

The three-judge Court of Appeal overturned a High Court finding the ESB was 60pc liable for flooding and warnings.

A challenge was lodged to the disputed High Court findings from October 2015 which, after a 104-day case, were the first here to fully test the liability of a dam operator.

The ESB has consistently defended its handling of the matter. But it is now expected that University College Cork and insurance groups will examine the Court of Appeal ruling with a view to a challenge.

If the ruling is not challenged, it will leave those insurers facing the acceptance of massive pay-outs made in respect of 2009 flood damage.

Three years ago it was feared the potential scale of pay-outs facing the ESB could result in the Government having to sanction an increase in electricity prices.

The floods nine years ago were described as the worst in 800 years. The worst damage to UCC was sustained at the showcase Glucksman Art Gallery, which is built overlooking a channel of the River Lee.

The Court of Appeal said the High Court judgment, if it was allowed to stand, would represent a "significant alteration" in the existing law of negligence and nuisance. The damage arose "from a natural event", ESB did not cause the flooding of UCC's buildings and it had no legal duty to avoid unnecessary flooding, the court ruled.

Liability for the legal costs, estimated at several million euro, will be decided later.

Irish Independent

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