A City Council lawyer suggested to a woman suing the local authority for compensation that she and members of her family seemed to have had a lot of similar claims in the past.
Elizabeth Butler, aged 60, of Gweedore Avenue, Mayfield, Cork, reacted in the witness box to James Duggan’s cross-examination.
“Did you ever fall, did you?” Ms Butler asked from the witness box at Cork Circuit Court.
Mr Duggan replied, “I have stumbled and fallen on occasions and I got up and I said to myself, wasn’t I the eejit not to be looking where I was going.”
Ms Butler said the reason she brought the case was because she had fallen and injured herself and it was not her fault, it was because, “The city is in an awful state.”
Judge James O’Donoghue told her counsel, Eamon Shanahan that he was going to award her €11,000 in compensation for her injuries when she fell at the junction of Lagan Grove and Shannon Lawn in Mayfield on November 13, 2015.
The accident happened at 10.30am and she injured her knee and shoulder.
Mr Duggan said that including this claim, the plaintiff had brought a total of five claims over the years. He referred to one 30 years ago that she did not disclose in respect of proceedings in this case. Ms Butler said she had no memory of it.
Judge O’Donoghue said in his judgment, “Ms Butler does not help herself by her attitude.”
Again the plaintiff spoke up from the body of the court during the judgement.
Judge O’Donoghue warned her, “Be careful how you answer me.”
The judge said the council’s barrister had a job to do and was entitled to question her about claims brought by herself and other members of her families in the past, particularly in light of incidents where “clusters of families are bringing claims.”
“I do believe you had an accident but you are not helping yourself. Your attitude to Mr Duggan about your family propensity to bring claims left a bit to be desired.”
At the end of the judgment, Mr Duggan asked the judge if he was not making any finding of contributory negligence by the plaintiff in terms of the issue of whether she was keeping a proper lookout before the fall.
The judge said he was not and that because of the condition of the ground where the accident occurred, “the corporation have left themselves open to be sued.”