Child care assistant fails in €60k claim bid after saying petrol splashed in her mouth at garage

McLaren said the nozzle jammed when she tried to fill up her car and when she pushed harder petrol splashed out and into her mouth

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Ray Managh

A child care assistant, who claimed she had been injured when petrol splashed into her mouth at a Maxol filling station, has lost a €60,000 damages claim against the company.

Geraldine McLaren (59) of Kippure Park, Finglas South, Dublin 11, told Judge Dara Hayes in the Circuit Civil Court that the incident happened in March 2017 as she was filling her car at Maxol in Santry on the Swords Road, Dublin.

She said she had inserted the pump nozzle into the fuel tank of her car when the nozzle jammed. When she pressed it more firmly, petrol had splashed into her mouth and onto her cardigan sleeve and her trouser legs.

She told the court she had swallowed an amount of petrol and afterwards felt dizzy and unsteady. She had suffered pain and discomfort to the right side of her mouth and throat and was treated with mouthwash.

Ms McLaren, who said the spray-back had struck her in the face and mouth as well as her clothes, said she had attended her doctor and had been prescribed Solpadine.

When defence counsel Grainne Larkin for Maxol, whose registered office is at the IFSC, Dublin, told Ms McLaron in cross-examination that CCTV coverage of the incident shown to the court did not indicate any petrol spraying into her mouth, McLaron said it had splashed into her mouth when she shook her sleeve.

Dismissing McLaron’s claim Judge Hayes said it was clear from the CCTV footage that the spray did not go into her mouth.

“It was undoubtedly a shocking and frightening incident but in order to succeed in a claim for damages the plaintiff must establish there was negligence and breach of duty on the part of the defendant,” the judge said.

Judge Hayes said there was no evidence that the pump was faulty in any foreseeable way on the day other than on the single occasion complained of. The pump had functioned normally on the day and had not required any subsequent servicing or maintenance.

“It is clear that the plaintiff was splashed with a significant amount of petrol, however in order to succeed she must establish negligence and I am not satisfied she has done so,” Judge Hayes said.

He said at most what had happened was a freak accident and that did not, of itself, constitute negligence.

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