Woman loses case over fall at Copper Face Jacks

Friday 28 June 2013 23.57
Mr Justice Ryan said it was an 'unfortunate accident' but could not find the nightclub negligent
Mr Justice Ryan said it was an 'unfortunate accident' but could not find the nightclub negligent

A woman, who sued over arm injuries suffered after a man fell on top of her while they were dancing at a Dublin nightclub, has lost her High Court action for damages.

Ciara O'Connell, 33, a sales representative, was dancing backwards to a Shakira song with a male work colleague, Noel Humphries, when the incident happened on 4 August, 2006.

Mr Justice Sean Ryan said this was an "unfortunate" accident but he could not find Ms O'Connell's injuries could be attributed to a slippery floor and he therefore could not find Copper Face Jacks nightclub was negligent.

Ms O'Connell and Mr Humphries were engaged in modern dancing "of the kind that takes place in night clubs and which is not easy to describe in terms that make sense".

The nightclub described it as "dirty dancing" after the film, he noted.

While the floor of the nightclub was under the defendant's control, the dancing activity of Ms O'Connell and Mr Humphries was not and it was possible the accident could have happened without a slippery floor or a dangerous site, he said.

Ms O'Connell and Mr Humphries were dancing backwards in close proximity in a situation that carried the risk either of them would miss a step or lose their footing and that could happen relatively easily.

She was moving in a backwards direction with Mr Humphries dancing similarly in unison with her and they were quite close together.

As they moved backwards like that, Mr Humphries fell back and on top of Ms O'Connell who hit the ground heavily and suffered the injury.

"I do not think that this was in any way reckless or dangerous dancing but it did carry with it the risk of falling," he said.

The accident was unfortunate and Ms O'Connell was unlucky to have suffered an injury but that was "just the combination of circumstances that meant Mr Humphries fell on top of her which precipitated the heavy fall resulting in her sustaining the injury that she did".

Ms O'Connell of Glenview Park, Tallaght in Dublin fractured her arm and was out of work for three months after the accident.

In her action against Breanagh Catering Ltd, trading as Copper Face Jacks, she claimed Mr Humphries slipped on the floor, which she claimed was wet, and fell onto her causing her to fall to the ground.

The defendant denied liability and also claimed Ms O'Connell was engaged in dangerous and reckless dancing with Mr Humphries.

Earlier, the judge said there was some evidence that part of the floor was wet and there was video camera evidence indicating some of the nightclub patrons were drinking while dancing.

Spillages were also possible as people carried drinks from the bar.

While satisfied the floor on which Ms O'Connell was lying was wet, it did not follow the floor area where Mr Humphries fell was wet, he said.

The issue was not if the floor was wet but if it was slippery.

The dance floor was made of pine flooring bound with hardwood - iroco - board inserts to provide contrast and pattern. An engineer who tested it after pouring water on it found the pine boards accounting for most of the dance floor were safe even when wet.

While the hardwood inserts were not porous and, if wet, would be slippery, there was no evidence the accident happened by Mr Humphries slipping on the hardwood strip, he said.

The judge stressed there was no evidence Ms O'Connell or her other work colleagues were drunk or incapable on the night of the incident.

They had gone home after work and met later about 10.30pm, he noted.

He dismissed the case and awarded costs against Ms O'Connell to the nightclub but directed it to pay Mr Humphries legal costs arising from it having joined him to the case.