Court awards Limerick woman €50k after slip in supermarket

Fintan Walsh

Reporter:

Fintan Walsh

Court awards Limerick woman €50k after slip in supermarket

Judge Raymond Groarke described the complainant as a credible and compelling witness

A WOMAN whose quality of life has been “adversely affected” after she slipped in a Limerick city supermarket has been awarded €50,000 in damages.

Deirdre Bourke, of Blackthorn Drive, Caherdavin, was shopping with her son in Dunnes Stores at Jetland Shopping Centre when the incident happened at around 4pm on February 5, 2015, Limerick Circuit Civil Court heard last Thursday.

Representing the claimant, Maria Lane BL asked Ms Bourke for how long she was shopping, to which she replied “40 minutes” and that she was “almost finished”.

When asked to describe what had happened, Ms Bourke said that she had left her trolley in another aisle when she went to the freezer section.

“My leg went and I grabbed the freezer. I was afraid of falling,” adding that she called for help when she was “stuck”. She said she asked for a chair. The court heard she “slipped”. 

Ms Lane asked her client if she had seen anything on the floor before or after she slipped. She said she saw a liquid on the ground afterwards, saying “it looked like yoghurt”.

She said she was “in pain getting in and out of the car”. She went to the doctor in May 2015 when she thought she had “pulled a muscle” in her left lower back.

The court heard that she had Crohn’s disease which affected her right side. She said she “didn’t have any issues with my back” before then.

Ms Lane asked if she had been on any painkillers, and Ms Bourke said she was on medication for the Crohn’s disease. She said she was prescribed extra painkillers to treat the back pain.

“How long were you taking these painkillers?” Ms Lane asked.

“I am still taking them,” Ms Bourke replied.

Following an MRI and x-ray on a later date, it was discovered that Ms Bourke was suffering from “partial tear and degeneration”.

The court heard that she is not able to do physiotherapy due to the Crohn’s and pain, but that aqua-aerobics was suggested.

She said “the pain is there most of the time” and that she might suffer pain while she is cooking or changing the bed. “Little things like that.”

Donal O’Rourke BL, defence, put it to Ms Bourke that she would have seen the liquid on the ground if she was observing the area.

He said the cleaner Derek Keyes, who has been working with Dunnes Stores for 27 years, “will say that he was in the immediate area and he didn’t observe anything on the floor”.

Civil Court president, Judge Raymond Groarke asked Ms Bourke: “Have you followed all the medical advice given by your doctor?” to which she replied: “Yes.”

Ms Bourke said that she is in the process of organising aqua-aerobics classes.

Judge Groarke viewed CCTV footage with Ms Lane and Mr O’Rourke for a number of minutes during the hearing.

Consultant engineer Thomas Hayes carried out an inspection at the supermarket, and told the court that the “creamy-white” substance “would not be obvious” on the floor.

Mr Hayes claimed that the Mr Keyes “never came near that area [of the slip]” and that the cleaning system “was not operated. It’s a perfect system if it is operated”.

Mr Keyes told the court that there “was nothing on the floor”.

Ms Lane said to Mr Keyes: “You didn’t, in fact, look at that area at all. In fact, you looked at the other side.” He replied: “I did look.”

Judge Groarke asked Mr Keyes: “How often are you supposed to clean your area?” He replied: “Every 15 minutes.”

He questioned Mr Keyes why he was not in the area 15 minutes previous to the incident, to which he replied: “I was at something else.”

The Civil Court president said that the cleaning system, which he described as “no doubt...first-class”, was “not being enforced as required”.

He described Ms Bourke as an “entirely credible and compelling witness” who is “living with pain day-to-day”, and that her “quality of life has been adversely affected” by the incident.

After awarding Ms Bourke €50,000 in damages, he said to her: “I hope things improve for you.”