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appeal hearing Court overturns €56k award for woman scalded when glass jug filled with hot water shattered

Mr Justice Seamus Noonan said it is “universally known by reasonable adults of normal intelligence" that boiling or very hot water could shatter glass.

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Eva Cekanova Pic: Collins Courts

Eva Cekanova Pic: Collins Courts

Eva Cekanova Pic: Collins Courts

The Court of Appeal has overturned an award of €56,000 damages to a woman who was scalded when a €10 glass jug bought by her in Dunnes Stores shattered when she poured hot water from a kettle into it.

The three judge appeal court found no evidence to support the conclusion of the High Court’s Mr Justice Kevin Cross that Dunnes was negligent in selling the jug to Eva Cekanova, a native of Slovakia.

Ms Cekanova (31), Windmill Terrace, Clonsilla, Dublin, sued Dunnes over the accident with the jug which she bought at the Blanchardstown Shopping Centre, Dublin in December 2015.

It was claimed, when she poured hot water into the jug to make tea, it suddenly, and without warning shattered, showering her legs.

Dunnes denied negligence and pleaded Ms Cekanova failed to heed a warning sticker on the jug which, it claimed, specifically states not to use hot water in it.

Mr Justice Cross found Dunnes was 75 per cent negligent in not having a warning label attached to the jug against using it for hot liquids and he accepted Ms Cekanova would not have purchased it if it had such a label.

Dunnes ought to have known people in Ireland from foreign countries will use a glass jug and pour hot water in it, he said.

He held Ms Cekanova was 25 per cent negligent in that she ought to have known that tea here is not made in glass jugs and she had some obligation to check if the jug was suitable before putting hot water into it.

He said Ms Cekanova suffered a significant injury and has been left with scarring.

Total damages were assessed at €75,844 but, because of the 25 per cent contributory negligence finding, were reduced to €56,883.

Allowing Dunnes appeal on Wednesday, the three-judge appeal court's Mr Justice Seamus Noonan said it is “universally known by reasonable adults of normal intelligence that boiling or very hot water has the potential to shatter an ordinary glass vessel”.

While Ms Cekanova had given evidence the first time she heard of the phenomenon of “thermal shock” was in her solicitor’s office, that was “at the least, a somewhat surprising proposition”.

Her evidence the water was not boiling when she poured it into the jug, and was rather at 80-90 degrees Centigrade, was “very difficult” to account for in the absence of some understanding of the effects of boiling or very hot water on ordinary glass.

The judge disagreed with Mr Justice Cross’s finding the jug was “meant” to have a label warning against using it for hot liquids.

While Ms Cekanova gave evidence that in her native Slovakia “we normally use a big glass jug for making tea”, there was absolutely no evidence for Mr Justice Cross’ finding that Dunnes knew, or should have known, that Slovakian nationals might buy glass jugs for such purposes, he said.

On the contrary, Ms Cekanova’s evidence was she was well aware people here use teapots to make tea.

If using glass jugs for tea was a well-known custom of which Dunnes should have known, it was surprising, having sold more than 11,000 of these jugs, some of which had no labels, no other complaints of a similar nature were received, he said.

If such a safety warning was required or necessary, it would have to be permanently engraved on the jug as a label would be washed off after the first use of the jug, he remarked.

On foot of those and other findings, he allowed Dunnes’ appeal and dismissed Ms Cekanova’s cross appeal against the finding of 25 per cent contributory negligence on her part.

Mr Justice Noonan said his provisional view was Dunnes would be entitled to its legal costs in the High Court and COA against Ms Cekanova but she had 14 days to consider whether to argue for an alternative costs order.

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