Many proprietors of licensed premises manage to have Slipping Claims of Patrons dismissed on the basis that the proprietor was able to demonstrate that there was a regulated system of maintenance in operation on the night in question. Such was the position reported by me in a BLOG titled Slipping Claim against Copper Face Jacks fails where the Plaintiff in that case had her Claim against the nightclub dismissed. However, in the High Court case of Moore -v- Westwood Club Ltd  IEHC 44 delivered 5th February 2014 Mr Justice Herbert found in favour of the Plaintiff, despite noting a regulated system of maintenance in operation on the night of the accident.
The plaintiff was at the Barcode, a nightclub located at the Westwood Club in Fairview, Dublin. She was returning from the rest-rooms intending to rejoin a group of other young persons with whom she and her two friends were socialising. She was crossing the floor of a restaurant area and was carrying a glass in her right hand. A friend of the Plaintiff had tipped her on the shoulder and said “Hi”. The plaintiff looked around at her and then fell forwards. She fell on the floor, landing on the front of her body. Her right hand containing the glass struck the ground. The glass broke on impact with the tiled floor. The plaintiff’s right middle finger of her dominant right hand was cut.
There was the evidence that the staffing roster showed that eighteen security-men, – in addition to sixteen bar staff, ten floor staff and seven cleaners – were on duty in the club on the night. The Judge was satisfied that the security staff were well trained, carefully positioned and vigilant and, any persons, male or female acting in an aggressive or insulting manner were immediately escorted from the premises.
The Plaintiff`s condition
The Judge was satisfied on the evidence that the plaintiff did not fall or trip by reason of intoxication. He was satisfied that the footwear worn by the Plaintiff on the occasion did not cause her to fall or contribute in any manner to the fall. He was satisfied that at the time of the fall the Plaintiff was walking, – not running, dancing, or moving excitedly or erratically in any way.
The condition of the floor
The Judge found that the floor of the restaurant area where the plaintiff fell was made up of ceramic or similar floor tiles of good slip resistant value, – R.10, rating. However, he noted the evidence of Mr. Barry Tennyson, chartered engineer, on behalf of the plaintiff, who told the court that under wet conditions, this floor would suffer a significant decrease in slip resistance.
Cleaners on Duty
Despite being satisfied that there were seven cleaners on duty in the Club on the night the Judge accepted the plaintiff`s evidence, supported by her friend, that the floor in the restaurant area generally on the particular night was wet and slippery. The Plaintiff`s friend saw persons spilling drink on the floor and said that one of her own friends had done so. She saw no attempt made to clean up the spillage or to dry the floor. The Judge noted that none of the Management were in a position to give any evidence at all to the court of the actual performance by the cleaners or other staff members of their duties on the night. No other witnesses were called to supply this information. No cleaner or member of the floor staff gave evidence.
The Court`s Decision
The Judge found on the balance of probabilities that the cleaning and maintenance system so carefully set up by the defendants failed to operate effectively on the night of the accident. He believed that the description given by the plaintiff gave an accurate picture of the pressure on staff and services on that night. The cleaning and maintenance system could have failed under this pressure. Importantly, there was no evidence at all as to how or how well it operated on the relevant night.
He found that the valleys in the micro-rough surface of the floor tiles held liquid and, therefore, controlled slipping, in the area where the plaintiff fell, had become filled and blocked by a build-up of particles of matter or precipitates from fluids or contaminated water permitted to lie and be trodden about on and into the surface of the floor. He was satisfied that this had the effect of compromising the slip resistance of the floor in this area. He found therefore that the defendants, in the circumstances, were guilty of a breach of the duty of care owed by them to the plaintiff.
Allowing for the fact that the Plaintiff`s injury did affect her ability to work for a period of time at a ladies hairdressing salon where she cut and coloured hair and that she had some loss of function with scarring the Judge awarded the Plaintiff €56,000.
For fear of having their Claim dismissed with an Order for Costs against them, many Plaintiffs have been scared off from issuing Proceedings against night clubs where the proprietor`s Insurers have pointed out their management systems at the commencement of the Claim. The Decision in this case demonstrates that the Court won`t always be guided solely by the boasts of a brilliant regulated cleaning system by the management but will also want to be satisfied that the management system was actually put into operation on the night of the accident.
Morgan McManus solicitors practise in the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland. Whether your Claim arises in Counties Monaghan, Cavan, Fermanagh or Tyrone contact Brian Morgan for further advice at 0035347 51011