A single slipping episode in a Londis supermarket was life changing for a 38-year-old mother who now suffers chronic pain, the High Court has heard.
Olivia Harte Lynch, a law and business graduate and a working mum, is now a shell of her former self following her fall after slipping on what is claimed was a muffin on the floor of a Londis store, her counsel told the court.
Peter Bland SC yesterday said Ms Harte Lynch has had to have surgery and suffers from chronic pain syndrome since the fall at the Dromohair, Co Leitrim branch of Londis on August 23, 2012.
Aggravated damages are also being sought in the action over the conduct of the defence by Londis. Ms Harte Lynch also applied to have the defence of the action struck out but this application was turned down.
Mr Bland SC said: “the case of the Dromohair Muffin “ had turned in to one where the fundamental rights of a citizen to access to justice had been put in issue. Counsel told the High Court when the supermarket side sought an adjournment of the case in front of another judge two weeks ago, the court was told on behalf of the defendants that “this accident was no accident.” Counsel said it was “ beyond extraordinary” that the supermarket was alleging fraud when Londis had admitted five years ago that Ms Harte Lynch had slipped and fell.
Mr Bland said the signal was deliberate and his side contended it was done on the instructions of the insurers “knowing how intimidatory it would be.” Counsel told Mr Justice Bernard Barton what was more egregious than the alleged accusation of fraud were other grotesque and wild allegations made against Ms Harte Lynch without evidential foundation.
One of those he said was the suggestion by a psychiatrist in a medical report commissioned by the insurers that Ms Harte Lynch may have Munchausen syndrome by proxy — a mental health problem in which a caregiver makes up or causes an illness in a person under his or her care, such as a child. Counsel said this deduction was based on the fact that Ms Harte Lynch referred to her 12-year-old daughter who was with her at the time of the accident as having stomach cramps.
Counsel said the Londis side claims Ms Harte Lynch has allegedly invented her chronic pain syndrome and another theory advanced is that she is allegedly a drug addict.
Olivia Harte Lynch, Skreeney, Manorhiliton, Co Leitrim has sued JNF McGoldrick Ltd trading as McGoldrick’s Londis, Main Street, Dromahair, Co Leitrim as a result of the accident on August 23, 2012.
It is claimed there was an alleged failure to remove the cake or muffin from the floor so as to ensure it would not constitute a trap or a source of danger.
Londis contends Ms Harte Lynch was the author of her own misfortune and allegedly did not wipe her feet on entering the shop and it is claimed she failed to keep a proper lookout.
Jonathan Kilfeather SC for Londis told the court it was not being alleged by Londis or the indemnifying insurance company that this was a staged or fraudulent accident.
Mr Justice Barton said there was no allegation of fraud and it was not in the pleadings.
Opening the case which is due to last a number of weeks, Mr Bland said Ms Harte Lynch fell after entering the shop and near the coffee area.
When she got up , he said she saw what looked like cream and icing on the floor and she thought it was a piece of chocolate from cake. She told a member of staff at the deli counter and she was told “ Actually dear, it’s a muffin.’ Counsel said there were muffins on a tray beside the coffee machine.
Mr Bland said it was their case there was no cleaning system in place and the only cleaning system was the floor was wiped with paper after the accident.
The case before Mr Justice Bernard Barton continues today.