A €20,000 High Court damages award to a woman who banged her knee against the leg of a table while sitting down to dinner will have serious repercussions for hoteliers and restaurateurs.
Ms Justice Mary Faherty heard that hairdresser Annette O’Connor had been directed to a table in The Mullingar Park Hotel restaurant, had waited while the manager politely withdrew her chair, then sat down and injured her left knee as she pulled her chair in to the table.
Ms O’Connor, aged 48 of The View, Larchill, Santry, Dublin, had booked a Mother’s Day weekend at the hotel with five friends in March 2011.
She claimed that being directed to the table setting right over the leg, which was concealed by a table cloth, constituted “a trap” and negligence on the part of the hotel owners Euro Plaza Hotel Limited which trades as The Mullingar Park Hotel.
Ms O’Connor told Padraig McCarton, senior counsel, who appeared for her with barrister Paul Twomey, that she had not been given any warning from the restaurant manager that the leg was hidden right beneath where she had been directed to sit.
She had been awarded €18,000 damages at Mullingar Circuit Court by Judge Doirbhile Flanagan whose judgment was appealed to the High Court. Ms Justice Faherty affirmed the lower court’s finding and increased damages to €20,000 and costs.
Ms O’Connor claimed she immediately felt pain and shock but had her meal before retiring to her room where staff had brought her an ice pack and a drink to settle her nerves.
When she returned home she had attended her local doctor, Beaumont Hospital for X-rays and later a specialist in muscle spasm. The injury had disrupted her personal and professional life.
A forensic engineer said if he had been asked pre-accident to risk assess the set up in the dining room he would not have directed the hotel to warn people about the presence of the table leg under the tablecloth.
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