Concerns have been expressed that a €750,000 High Court award to a man assaulted outside a Cork supermarket could impact others who operate, own or occupy premises which allow public footfall.
Cian McCarthy was awarded the money after he sued Herlihy Supermarket Group Ltd, owners of the Centra supermarket on Grand Parade in Cork, and Tekken Security, which provided security at the store.
He suffered a brain injury after being ejected from the store on October 31, 2011. He had tried to get back into the shop as he fled would-be attackers and was later assaulted. Mr McCarthy had earlier been escorted from the store after a disagreement when somebody jumped the queue.
Mr Justice Kevin Cross found the defendants’ duty of care did not stop at the door and, while entitled to eject Mr McCarthy in order to avoid confrontation, the first security guard should have noticed the three people involved in the queue-jumping row following him and advised the second security guard of the situation.
ISME said while it sympathised with the victim, it feared the implications of the ruling for the retail, hospitality, entertainment and sporting sectors, adding it hoped the case would be appealed.
It questioned the size of the award and said the manner in which liability was fixed to the defendant because the victim was not readmitted to the shop was “most peculiar”, adding: “It potentially implies a duty of care to members of the general public who have entered a premises which endures in certain circumstances after they have departed the premises.”
ISME CEO Neil McDonnell said: “Our concern in this case reflects the general apprehension among small business owners that they will be fixed with liability in some cases, not because they are strictly liable, but because they are insured.” He added this meant they were a “good ‘mark’” for damages that should more appropriately be awarded against others of lesser means.
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