The Appeal Begins
The National Parks and Wildlife Service appeal to the High Court against the Circuit Court award of €40,000 to hillwalker Teresa Wall began in The Four Courts this week before Mr. Justice Michael White, as reported in The Irish Times.
Judge Jacqueline Linanne last April found the NPWS negligent in that reasonable care had not been taken to maintain the boardwalk, on which Ms. Wall fell, in a safe condition, and that this failure was responsible for Ms Wall’s injuries.
The NPWS had denied negligence or breach of a duty of care towards her, and , in addition, had pleaded that Ms Wall had contributed to her injuries by not looking where she was going and she was participating in an activity known to have risks, and that it (NPWS) was not responsible for anything that may have happened to her.
There was a preliminary application by the NPWS’s for permission to call new evidence during the appeal. It was argued that the case was very important for the NPWS especially in the context of what duty of care occupiers of land owed to hillwalkers.
Mr. Murray SC (for the NPWS) said the service wanted to call evidence from Helen Lawless of the Mountaineering Council of Ireland; Pat Stokes, a health and safety official with the UK’s Royal Society for the Protection of Birds; and Pat Mellon of the Wicklow Partnership.
Louis McEntaggart SC, for Ms Wall, objected to those witnesses saying that their evidence concerned policy relating to hillwalking and the court must “not lose sight” of the fact that the appeal concerned a specific incident where his client tripped on the boardwalk and sustained injuries.
Mr Justice White said the appeal was being treated as a fresh hearing of the case, that the three could give evidence, but Ms Wall’s counsel could raise specific objections if the evidence was not relevant to the issues in the case.
According to the Irish Independent, Ms Wall (60), told the judge she was “black and blue on her right side” and in significant pain after gashing her knee on a nail after she fell on the boardwalk on August 6th, 2013 at about 4pm. After lying on the ground at the scene of her fall for about half an hour, her husband Damien had to “piggyback” her down the mountain because he was unable to get a mobile phone signal to call for assistance. Ms Wall’s foot had snagged in a hole in one of the old railway sleepers that made up a boardwalk just below the JB Malone memorial on the Sally Gap-to-Djouce trail near Roundwood, she said. The wound required seven stitches. The accident occurred as Ms Wall and her husband were coming down the mountain after a long walk, she said. They had been active hillwalkers here and abroad but, because of the injuries to her knee, she was now only able to walk on flat terrain. She had also enjoyed running and had trained to do the Dublin City Marathon in October 2013, but was unable to run any more.
The cross examination of Ms. Wall by Brian Murray SC for the NPWScontinued oin the second day of the hearing. Ms Wall accepted having phone conversations with employees of the NPWS on August 14. While some of the details were correct some were inaccurate Ms Wall denied telling NWPS District Conservation Officer Enda Mullen in a phone conversation that the accident happened after she tripped on chicken wire that had been on the sleepers. She also denied telling Ms Mullen she was unable, due to her injuries, to go on a holiday that day to Slovakia or that she asked the NWPS about compensation.
Ms Wall did accept that on the same date she phoned the State Claims Agency.
She told counsel she did that because she "wanted to know where she stood." At time of the phone calls she said she was on pain killers anti-biotics and valium."
An experienced hill walker of many years Mrs Wall described the boardwalk as being "very dangerous" and that she had contacted the NPWS over her concern of a risk to other walkers .
In her evidence, Ms Mullen said she spoke by telephone to Ms Wall on August 14 who she described as being "upset." Ms Mullen said she wrote down details given to her by Ms Wall