NIGHT ON THE TILES Man awarded €105k for porch fall after drinking five pints of Guinness told to repay money
"Sure, five pints is nothing.' And they were five quick pints that day too because it was a cold old day"
A man who was awarded €105,000 for a fall in the porch of his council house after drinking claimed this week "five pints is nothing" after the award was overturned.
Thomas Keegan successfully sued Sligo County Council in the High Court in 2017 for injuries sustained in a fall at his council property in McNeill Drive in Sligo in 2013.
But Mr Keegan, who was given €30,000 of the award after the original case, also told the Sunday World that he no longer has the money.
He had successfully argued that despite being a tenant, he was just a visitor to the council property where he had lived for nine years and the council were the occupier so were responsible for the porch being slippery.
However, the Court of Appeal ruled that the case be reheard in the High Court as in the original case Mr Justice Anthony Barr had discounted alcohol as a factor in the fall "purely on the basis of the judge's own opinion and not on the basis of evidence".
It also ruled that the judge had not considered the question of Mr Keegan's own knowledge of the tiles having lived there for nine years.
Last week, the High Court found that Mr Keegan failed to prove the council was in any way responsible for the fall after finding the tiles did not pose a danger and that as a tenant at the property he had control over the condition and cleanliness of the tiles.
On the day of the accident Mr Keegan had been at a funeral and had five pints of Guinness before coming home and slipping on the tiles of his porch at the council house. Mr Keegan said the pints had no bearing on his fall.
"Sure, five pints is nothing," Mr Keegan told the Sunday World. "And they were five quick pints that day too because it was a cold old day. I was only coming from a funeral. I bought a bit of grub as well to come home with. You'd drink a lot more. It's only when the bad weather was here [that the porch was slippy]."
Mr Keegan said he wasn't even aware of the latest High Court ruling when we spoke to him at his home this week.
The former construction worker suffered a fracture to his left distal tibia and fibula in the fall and told the Sunday World that he has had four operations on his leg since and can no longer work. He is currently on disability payments.
Mr Keegan said the publicity around the original case caused him great hassle and people in Sligo believed he had been paid the €105,000.
"The papers wrote a load of sh*t. There was 10 different stories every day. I was getting assaulted over the town and I thought I was going to be robbed. The papers put the headline in that it was €105,000 and they all thought I got it.
"If I got the €105,000 there were houses going cheap enough then I would bought one for myself and got away from those."
While he wasn't given the €105,000 following the initial High Court victory in 2017, the judge in that case did order he be paid €30,000 of the sum pending an appeal from Sligo County Council's and their insurers.
His lawyers were also given an additional €20,000 in costs.
The council and insurers are now seeking to recover that money, but Mr Keegan told the Sunday World the money he got is already gone.
"I haven't got it... I can agree to give them €5 or €10 a month and I can default on that a month later. It'll cost them more money to bring me to court.
"I found out lately that [the council] have their own insurance company and nobody takes them on. They have their own insurance company [which insures councils] over the whole of Ireland. They've won a good few cases lately."
He said he was disappointed to learn from the Sunday World that the High Court ruled in favour of the council last week.
"Ah I am. I was looking for a few pound out of it. I'm on disability. My leg is f***ed. I've had four operations on this leg."
He said the accident ended his ability to work on sites.
"I'll never walk right again."
He showed us his mobility scooter which he said he now uses to get around because he can't walk for too long.
Mr Keegan added that before the accident he had planned to go back to England to work on sites there.
"I worked for a load of years in England have a load of contacts. Here it's not the same for me. I used to do the paving and kerbing and drive the machines. You were paid for what you do. Here you're just a general operative. A fella who knows nothing, who is just wheeling a barrow, gets paid the same money."
He said the council came to remove the tiles on the porch last month - seven years after the accident.
"They took it all out just before Christmas. They came here around the middle of December. There was no warning; they just came and said 'we're taking the tiles up'. That's how slow they are.
"It's ugly looking but it's safer. I had a lot more mats down [afterwards]. That concrete goes black. The tiles were lethal. Half of the area was taken up after my court case."
In the original case, Mr Justice Barr found that the council were responsible for the house and though he was a tenant Mr Keegan was a visitor to the property, therefore the council were liable for damages.
However, in the new High Court ruling on the case last week Mr Justice John Jordan said it was "artificial" for Mr Keegan to suggest he was a visitor of the council-owned house which he rented and occupied.
The judge also noted that council did not argue the consumption of five pints by Mr Keegan was an act of contributory negligence but argued it as a factor in regard to Mr Keegan's duty to take reasonable care for his own safety and in his conflicting accounts of how the accident occurred.
Having heard expert evidence from Michael Morris, a professor of surface and interface engineering at Trinity College Dublin, the court was satisfied the unglazed tiles did not pose a danger on the premises.
Mr Justice Jordan said the court does not know what, if any, dirt or grime or other matter was present on the tiled surface when the plaintiff slipped, although it found it was probably wet.
The plaintiff failed to prove the council was "in any way responsible" for the accident, the judge added.
The council are now seeking the return of the €30,000 paid to Mr Keegan after his initial High Court victory and are also seeking the return €20,000 in fees paid to Mr Keegan's legal team.
Mr Keegan told the Sunday World he intended to contact his lawyers to find out more about the judgement.
He added: "You might give me a few pounds for the story, will you?"
We replied that we couldn't pay him for the story.
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