Wednesday 12 December 2018

'It's been extremely stressful' - Owners forced to close rural pub while being sued by woman who fell on premises

Alan Dawnay, one of the directors of Alan Dawnay Taverns Ltd, owners of Toss Byrne's pub in Inch
Alan Dawnay, one of the directors of Alan Dawnay Taverns Ltd, owners of Toss Byrne's pub in Inch
Amy Molloy

Amy Molloy

THE owners of a Co Wexford pub being sued by a woman who fell on the premises have slammed the Irish legal system as being “pitted against anyone trying to run a business”, as they have been forced to close the bar while defending the claim.

Interior designer and wedding planner, Dominique Schefman (55), of Ashwood, Roundwood, Co Wicklow, is suing Alan Dawnay Taverns Ltd, owners of Toss Byrne's pub in Inch, Gorey over the alleged accident.

Father-of-two Alan Dawnay, one of the directors of the company, told Independent.ie that he has been unable to afford legal representation to fight the case after the insurance company refused to indemnify the company over the accident.

He said the company is now "flat broke".

Mr Dawnay, who also owns a roofing company, believes that the legal system unfairly favours those receiving 'no win, no fee' legal representation as they don’t have to pay their legal costs if the case is unsuccessful, while business owners are expected to fork out thousands of euro defending cases.

"It’s a disgrace. My father, who is also a director, has had to defend us as we can’t afford to pay for legal representation, but nobody is offering us advice on a no win, no fee basis," he said.

"It's at the stage where people just pay out as it's cheaper than defending the claim, so it's a lose-lose situation for business owners."

Ms Schefman claims she was staying at the pub during the course of refurbishment works back in May 2014, the High Court heard in October after an application to renew an injunction restraining the disposal of proceeds from the sale of the pub was made.

Ms Schefman had been providing interior design services for the pub at the time and claimed she went upstairs to her bedroom to change her clothing.

She was returning downstairs when, owing to the alleged negligence of the defendant, she lost her footing on the staircase, she claims.

It is also claimed she was found unconscious at the bottom of the staircase and taken to hospital where she was diagnosed as having suffered a severe traumatic brain injury.

However, Mr Dawnay has alleged in his defence that Ms Schefman was trespassing on the premises at the time and had been "drinking and smoking cannabis" that day, which Ms Schefman denies, the court heard.

The company’s insurers have refused to indemnify it over the the accident and an injunction was granted by the High Court preventing the owners disposing of the pub for less than €500,000 before the personal injury case is dealt with.

"I bought it as an investment as we used to always drive by it when I was younger and when I saw it for sale, I decided to go for it. But it has brought nothing but stress on me and my family," Mr Dawnay said

"I just think it has gotten crazy, there's a big imbalance there at the moment."

A date has yet to be set for the personal injury hearing.

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