Hillwalker Teresa Wall, who was injured when she fell on a rotting boardwalk on the Wicklow Way, was yesterday awarded €40,000 damages against the National Parks and Wildlife Service.
In a judgment that will have repercussions for all of Ireland’s national parks, Judge Jacqueline Linnane said Ms Wall had been directed by signs to use the boardwalk which, the court held, was a structure placed on the land by the Parks and Wildlife Service.
Judge Linnane said it was clear from photographs produced in evidence that the boardwalk had been made up of second-hand wooden railway sleepers that were badly rotted, with protruding staples loosely holding down chicken wire.
She told David McParland, counsel for Ms Wall, that reasonable care had not been taken to maintain the boardwalk in a safe condition and this failure was responsible for his client’s injuries, a gash to her right knee which required seven stitches on August 6, 2013.
Kevin D’Arcy, for the State Claims Agency, had earlier told the court that although there had been hundreds of falls over the years by walkers in the country’s various national parks — many resulting in broken bones — Ms Wall’s was the first in which the service had been sued for negligence and breach of duty.
The 59-year-old housewife, of Rathingle Cottages, Swords, Co Dublin told the court she had climbed in the Himalayas and to Everest base camp and could no longer hill climb or run marathons. She had been walking for 40 years and had walked “all around the world.”
Mr McParland said the wooden walkway constituted “a structure” and the Occupiers Liability Act imposed a much higher duty of care on the Parks and Wildlife Service in the maintenance and management of such a development.
Mr D’Arcy had argued that Ms Wall had voluntarily participated in a unique rugged sporting activity of known reasonable risks and that the Parks Service was entitled to rely on the doctrine of volente non fit injuria (no wrong is done to one who consents).
Judge Linnane said Ms Wall was a very experienced and keen hillwalker and very fit. On the day, she was wearing appropriate clothes, walking boots and walking sticks. The judge said there had been no contributory negligence on Ms Wall’s part.
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