The High Court has ordered a man who fell on slippery tiles in the porch of his rented council home to pay back €30,000 he received in part compensation.
Mr Justice John Jordan also ordered solicitors who acted for Thomas Keegan (53) to repay €20,000 received in part-payment of fees.
The judge made the order in relation to monies that were paid by Sligo County Council as a condition of the local authority being allowed to appeal a €105,000 award made by the High Court in 2017 to Mr Keegan over the accident at his home at McNeill Drive, Cranmore, Co. Sligo.
Mr Keegan, who previously worked as a paver, had claimed the slippiness of the terracotta tiling originally installed in the porch, as well as the angle of the porch to face the prevailing wind and rain in Sligo, created a particular hazard.
In 2017, the court, sitting in Sligo, found the council liable and there was no contributory negligence on Mr Keegan's part. The council was permitted to appeal on the basis of paying €50,000, including the €30,000 for Mr Keegan, to his solicitors.
The Court of Appeal (CoA) ordered a retrial and earlier this month Mr Justice Jordan found no liability by the council. He found it “artificial” for Mr Keegan to suggest he was a visitor to his home. The case came back before Mr Justice Jordan on Friday for the matter of costs in relation to the second High Court hearing.
Peter Bland SC, for the council, argued his client was entitled to those costs but he had no objection to a stay in the event of another appeal to the CoA. He sought the repayment of both the €30,000 for Mr Keegan and the €20,000 for his solicitors given the overturning of the first case.
John Finlay SC, for Mr Keegan, said he could not oppose the costs order or an order for the return of the monies.
Mr Justice Jordan granted the council its costs for the retrial with the exception of one day's costs related to the evidence of an expert introduced by the council "who made a difference" to the case.
It was unfortunate the council did not engage this expert at an initial stage in the case and Mr Keegan might have been spared all of this time and expense that followed, he said.
He also ordered the return of the monies paid out but noted that if the council had difficulties with that money being paid as a condition of it being allowed appeal, it could have appealed that matter itself but it did not.
The court heard the accident occurred on November 18, 2013, when Mr Keegan was returning home some time after 5pm after visiting a number of pubs in which he had consumed five pints of Guinness. He suffered a significant injury to his left ankle, with X-rays revealing a fracture to his left distal tibia and fibula.
The council did not argue the consumption of this level of drink was an act of contributory negligence but argued it as a factor in regard to Mr Keegan’s duty to take reasonable care for his own safety and in his conflicting accounts of how the accident occurred.
Having heard expert evidence, Mr Justice Jordan was satisfied the unglazed tiles did not pose a danger.