Saturday 16 December 2017

Woman awarded €40k after falling on a rotting boardwalk

Teresa Wall pictured at the Four Courts for her Circuit Civil Court action for damages. Photo: Courts Collins
Teresa Wall pictured at the Four Courts for her Circuit Civil Court action for damages. Photo: Courts Collins

Aodhan O'Faolain

A woman with 40 years experience hill walking says she was "black and blue on her right side" after gashing her knee on a nail in a fall on a rotting boardwalk on the Wicklow Way.

Teresa Wall (60) was awarded €40,000 by the Circuit Court over the accident on the popular walking trail in 2013.

The award was against the National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) which has brought an appeal in the High Court over it.

Ms Wall from Rathingle Cottages, Swords, Co Dublin, told the appeal her injuries were such that after lying on the ground at the scene of her fall for around half an hour her husband Damien had to "piggyback" her down the mountain.  He husband was unable to get a mobile phone signal so he could call for assistance.

She said her foot had snagged in a hole in one of the old railway sleepers that made up a boardwalk just below the JB Malone memorial on the Sally Gap to Djouce trail near Roundwood.  She was in significant pain, she said.

Ms Wall told her counsel, Louis McEntagart, the accident occurred around 4pm on August 6, 2013, when she and her husband had been coming down the mountain after a long walk on the boardwalk, which had been placed on the lands by the NPWS.

She said she suffered a gash to her right knee which required seven stitches. She and her husband had been active hillwalkers in Ireland and abroad, but because of the injuries to her knee, she was now only able to walk on flat terrain.

She also had enjoyed running, and had trained to do the Dublin City Marathon in October 2013 but was unable to run anymore.

Under cross examination by Brian Murray SC, for the NWPS, Ms Wall said she had 40 years hill walking experience and had been looking where she was going when she fell.

In her action against the NPWS, she claimed the defendant permitted a defect to be present in in the boardwalk where the timber had rotted away, creating a tripping hazard which left it in an unsafe condition and created a public nuisance at the site.

The claims are denied.

The NPWS claims Ms Wall contributed to her injuries by not looking where she was going and was the author of her own misfortune.

She had participated in a activity known to have risks and the NWPS added it was not responsible for anything that may have happened to her.

The NPWS appeal opened before Mr Justice Michael White on Wednesday.

In a preliminary ruling, Mr Justice White ruled the defence can call three expert witnesses who did not give evidence when the matter was heard by the circuit court.

The NPWS wants to call Helen Lawless from the Mountaineering Council of Ireland, Pat Stokes, who is a Health and Safety Official with the UK's Royal Society of the Protection of Birds, and Pat Mellon of the Wicklow Partnership.

Ms Wall's lawyer objected to the witnesses being called.

In his ruling, Mr Justice White said he was satisfied that three could give evidence during the appeal, which he said is being treated as a new hearing of the case.

Ms Wall's lawyers could raise any objections they wanted about the evidence the three give to the court, the judge added.

The hearing continues.

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