Charity sued after boy set fire to hotel

A charity is being sued after a 10-year-old boy who allegedly absconded from a kids weekend trip it had organised, set fire to a hotel, the High Court has 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 in July 2010 by the 10-year-old in a shed and spread to the hotel. 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, counsel for the defendants, said St 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 10-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 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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