Saturday 7 December 2019

'Human cannonball' drops damages claim after Wheel of Death, Spiderman revelations

Juan Domingo Morales leaving the High Court yesterday. Picture: Courtpix
Juan Domingo Morales leaving the High Court yesterday. Picture: Courtpix

Tim Healy

An action for damages by a "human cannonball" circus performer, who was injured when he missed a net during a performance, was dramatically withdrawn at the High Court.

Eighth-generation circus performer Juan Domingo Morales had sued claiming he had been injured when he was propelled from a circus cannon during a big top performance in Co Monaghan 10 years ago.

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.

After cross-examination by the circus side and a recess had been called by Mr Justice Michael Hanna, Mr Morales withdrew his case.

He had earlier told the court he does not have the same power after fracturing his right wrist. Mr Morales spent six days in hospital after the incident in Clones.

"I got in and waited for the countdown from five. I missed the net and landed in the ring," he said. He added: "I have not done the human cannonball since. I am scared."

It was claimed that on March 19, 2008, Mr Morales was at work with the circus in Clones when the cannon allegedly malfunctioned during his performance and he was propelled, missed the safety net, and collided 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. 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 cannon and concluded it was safe.

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 cannon before his performance.

Cross-examined by David Nolan SC, for the circus, Mr Morales agreed he fell 30 feet 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 when he was trying to make a case in court that he had a problem with vertigo.

Counsel also put it to him he had been a 'Spiderman' trapeze artist months after the cannonball accident. A video of a circus performance was also shown to the court in which, 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. "If your wrists contributed to your near-death fall, wouldn't it be the first thing we would have heard about in the case?"

Mr Justice Hanna said before giving a short recess.

When the court resumed counsel for Mr Morales said the case could be withdrawn and struck out.

Irish Independent

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