Shane Phelan: 'The case may be dropped but questions remain over TD's account of swing fall'
Fine Gael TD Maria Bailey may have instructed her solicitors to drop her personal injuries action over a fall from a swing, but the facts surrounding the incident are still in dispute.
Discrepancies also exist between information in the Dún Laoghaire TD's indorsement of claim, the legal document in which she set out what she claimed to be entitled to, and facts which have emerged over the past week.
The document filed with Dublin Circuit Civil Court said the incident took place around 9pm on July 13, 2015, when Ms Bailey was at the Dean Hotel in Dublin with friends. However, in an interview with the 'Sunday Independent', Ms Bailey said it actually took place on July 10. The legal filing said the party went to the top floor of the hotel where swings are located in the corridor outside a restaurant and bar. It says Ms Bailey was sitting on a swing having her photo taken when she "was caused to fall backwards". Her hip, lower back and head were said to have taken the brunt of the fall.
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In defence filings, the hotel denies the incident occurred as alleged or in the precise manner described by the TD.
Who is to blame?
The indorsement of claim listed no fewer than 18 grounds of alleged negligence or breach of duty by the hotel.
These included that the swing was "unsupervised" and there were no signs to instruct patrons how to safely use it.
In defence papers, the hotel accepted the swing was not supervised, but said any injury the TD may have sustained was due to her own negligence or contributory negligence. It said she had items in both hands, restricting her ability to balance and stopping her from holding rope grips properly.
The hotel did not say what the items were and the TD's indorsement of claim did not refer to her holding anything.
In the newspaper interview, Ms Bailey said: "I was holding somebody's bottle."
Ms Bailey's indorsement of claim made no reference to her having consumed alcohol on the night of the incident. In the interview, she said nobody was drunk and nobody was messing. "We had one glass of wine before going out and we had just one glass at the hotel."
Ms Bailey's indorsement of claim said she woke around 6.30am the next morning with "severe pain" in her back which prevented her getting out of bed. It said she went to the Beacon Hospital's A&E unit, where she was diagnosed with soft-tissue type injuries, contusions and concussion.
The document said she can no longer sit or stand for long periods without experiencing pain and discomfort. In her interview, Ms Bailey said she was in "excruciating pain and scared" after the fall. "It was like a knife was coming out of my back," she said.
In defence papers, the hotel denied Ms Bailey suffered the alleged injuries or any injuries as a direct consequence of being caused to fall off the swing, either in the manner alleged, or at all.
Despite the injuries claimed, Ms Bailey kept a busy schedule in the week that followed. She spoke at a migraine awareness event on July 15 and a Women For Election event on July 17. She also attended the Longitude music festival on July 18.
The indorsement of claim states Ms Bailey was a keen runner prior to the incident but "could not run at all for three months" afterwards. However, on August 3, just three weeks after the incident, she ran the 'The Bay 10K' in Dún Laoghaire in a time of 53 minutes, 56 seconds. She ran at a similar pace at the event the previous year, finishing in 53 minutes and four seconds.
Ms Bailey's indorsement of claim said the hotel offered to pay for her medical treatment. A cheque for €600 was furnished, but she returned it. It stated she was seeking damages for personal injury, loss, damage, inconvenience and expense. The circuit court can award up to €60,000 in general damages for a personal injury caused by someone else's negligence. Her indorsement of claim also set out special damages, or out of pocket expenses. These included hospital fees of €1,200, dental fees of €280 and yet to be ascertained bills for physiotherapy and Pilates. But in her 'Sunday Independent' interview, Ms Bailey said: "All I was looking for was my medical expenses, which were about €7,000."