A boy who was almost four years of age suffered two broken legs when a book-shaped headstone fell on top of him during a family visit to a graveyard and yesterday Cork City Council was found to be liable.
Mr Justice Kevin Cross said the local authority had been warned of the risk of such headstones 12 years earlier and had not acted on the advice.
The accident happened in 2012 at St Michael’s cemetery in Blackrock, and Eoin Morrison, who brought the case through his father, Richard Morrison of Ardmore Estate, Passage West, Co Cork, was awarded €35,000, the money to be lodged in court until the plaintiff, who is now eight, reaches the age of 18.
Eoin’s mother was praying at the family’s graveside on the day when the stone from another plot fell down on Eoin. It weighed eight stone and it caused fractures to both tibiae. He was placed in plaster cast and made a good recovery from the fractures.
The case was taken against Cork City Council and a second defendant, Tom McCarthy trading as Tom McCarthy Memorials of Pouladuff Rd. Cork City Council offered the plaintiff €35,000 in settlement of the action. Lorraine O’Sullivan, counsel for the plaintiff, recommended acceptance of the settlement offer stating that while it did not represent the full value of the case there was an issue that the second defendant was not insured against such a claim.
The matter was before Mr Justice Cross at the High Court where the local authority sought indemnity against Tom McCarthy Memorials. The judge dismissed the council’s claim against him.
Mr Justice Cross noted from the evidence that in 2000, Cork City Council was informed of hazards they should be on the look-out for in relation to the erection of headstones in the shape of a tilted book. The judge said the council did nothing about that warning and they did not notify their own supervisor at St Michael’s cemetery of the potential hazard.
“Given they were aware of the hazards of sloping headstones they should not have approved it. The council must have liability to the plaintiff,” the judge said.
As for whether they were entitled to claim any indemnity against the second defendant, the judge said Mr McCarthy is an experienced erector of headstones and that he imported it from a reputable manufacturer in China and followed their instructions on how it should be erected. Asked by Cork City Council counsel John Lucey if such stones were unsafe, Jim Kelly consulting engineer said: “Some of them are, some of them aren’t.”
Edward Kenneally, supervisor at St Michael’s cemetery, where there are up to 7,000 headstones, said that previously a stone cutter came up and erected a stone without showing plans to the local authority but that now it was procedure to submit plans for a headstone before being authorised to erect it.
Mr Justice Cross said that, at the plaintiff’s age, there could be no blame on him for whatever happened .
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