The Belfast High Court has awarded a sixty-six year old pensioner £60,000 compensation for slip and fall injuries at the entrance to a church.
Angela McCluskey was visiting St Malachy´s Chapel in Armagh in December 2010 to light a candle on the anniversary of her niece´s death when she slipped on ice on the path leading up to the church entrance. The former hospital cleaner and school dinner lady fell awkwardly, dislocating her knee and sustaining ligament damage as a result.
Angela was taken to hospital, where she underwent surgery for her injuries, and discharged some weeks later in a wheelchair. Angela´s home in Armagh was adapted to account for her impaired mobility and she has since moved to a single-storey bungalow which is easier for her to negotiate with the aid of a walking stick.
After seeking legal advice, Angela claimed compensation for slip and fall injuries at the entrance to a church against St Patrick’s Archdiocesan Trust – the authority responsible for the safety of visitors to churches in Armagh. The Trust denied responsibility for Angela´s injuries, arguing that the path on which Angela slipped had been salted the previous evening.
The claim was resolved in a recent hearing at Belfast High Court before Mrs Justice Siobhan Keegan. Judge Keegan heard that the Trust had no formal system in place to manage the church grounds at the time of Angela´s accident, but had been doing its best during a period of extremely inclement weather to keep the church open to visitors.
Judge Keegan found in Angela´s favour; commenting that although the path leading up to the church entrance had been salted the previous evening, it should have been checked on the morning of Angela´s accident to see if it remained a hazard. The judge told the court: “In my view the risk was clearly foreseeable considering the extreme weather at the time”.
The judge also rejected any suggestion of contributory negligence, saying that there were a number of measures that the Trust could have taken to prevent the risk of injury to visitors – even if it meant closing the majority of access points to the church and creating one dedicated path. Commenting that providing a safe route to visitors was not an “unrealistic standard of care to impose upon the defendant,” Judge Keegan awarded Angela £60,000 compensation for slip and fall injuries at the entrance of a church.