Monday 23 October 2017

Hotel suing charity after boy (10) 'set fire to hotel on weekend trip for children'

Pilgrim's Rest Hotel, Cappoquin, Co Waterford
Pilgrim's Rest Hotel, Cappoquin, Co Waterford

Tim Healy

A CHARITY is being sued after a ten-year-old boy set fire to a hotel after he allegedly absconded from a weekend trip for children, the High Court heard.

The Society of St Vincent de Paul is facing the action brought by David and Mary Tozer, owners of the Pilgrim's Rest Hotel, Cappoquin, Co Waterford.  Scouting Ireland, whose Cappoquin activity centre was used to accommodate the children, is also being sued.

The Tozers are seeking damages for items not covered by their insurance policy for the fire which was set by the ten-year-old in a shed and spread to the hotel, in July 2010.  There was no cover for contents and repairs to items such as paintings, the court heard.

The defendants deny the claims and brought an application seeking to have the question of liability first decided by the court.

Barry O'Donnell BL, for the defendants, said the Vincent de Paul brought the children on a weekend trip to a facility owned by the scouts.

It was alleged that at a certain point, a ten-year-old boy absconded and went to the hotel where he started a fire in a shed which spread to the main building.

The issue between the parties was whether there was a duty of care in terms of risk assessment and whether an organisation like the Vincent de Paul had to carry out background checks to ensure they would have been no risk from the children.  There was also an allegation of insufficient supervision. 

For this reasons, counsel was seeking that the liability issue be first decided before the full hearing which is due to take place in April in order to save on costs and court time.

Mr Justice Seamus Noonan refused to split the trial saying the application to do so had been brought far too late.  He also said, in his experience, splitting a trial doubled the costs.

However, he said, he would order the parties to exchange expert reports before March 1 in order to speed up the hearing in April.

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