A 70-YEAR old man who fell off a corrugated-iron roof sued the owner of the house, which was Cork County Council.
Barrister Doireann O’Mahony, instructed by MacCarthy Baker and Co, appeared at Bantry Circuit Court on behalf of John Lehane, who is a tenant at 55 Castle Street in Dunmanway.
John Lehane, who is now 70, told the court that he was 68 when the fall – which resulted in a bone in his leg being shattered – happened.
The barrister said he suffered ‘a serious injury’ when he fell from the roof of an outbuilding – one that he was responsible for maintaining – onto a concrete surface in his backyard.
In evidence, John Lehane said he was administered to by medical personnel, who gave him painkillers, and was then taken to Cork University Hospital.
The plaintiff explained to Judge Sean Ó Donnabháin that during his hospital stay he underwent surgery and had ‘a fixation’ put on his leg.
As a result of the fall, the plaintiff said he was in hospital for four-and-a-half weeks and was in ‘severe pain.’
He said it was 12 months before he could put his leg properly under him and that even now, two years later, he gets pain during cold and frosty weather.
In outlining the facts of his case, and the claim he brought against Cork County Council, the plaintiff said he believed he had a responsibility to maintain the dwelling.
Judge Ó Donnabháin asked Terry O’Driscoll, the barrister who was acting for Cork County Council, if ‘any effort’ had been made to settle the matter out of court, but with a wave of his hand to the press gallery, Terry O’Driscoll said it was not an option ‘particularly when it is likely to go
into The Southern Star.’
Judge Ó Donnabháin said he was of the opinion that no man in his 69th year should be on a roof, adding: ‘No man in his 69th year should get up on the second step of a ladder.’
After viewing photographs of the plaintiff’s house – a house that he has lived in since the 1970s – the judge said: ‘It is a credit to him. The place is as neat and as tidy as anything. The Council should give him a long-service medal for being such a good tenant.’
However, despite the fact that an engineer, Padraig Murphy, had begun to give evidence that Cork County Council wrote to the plaintiff about health and safety matters after the accident, the judge said he could not hold the Council responsible for the accident. He said: ‘He was on a roof. I can’t conceive of any negligence on the part of the Council.’
But the judge did make reference to some of the absurdities contained in the Council’s health and safety literature saying: ‘Myles na gCopaleen is dead, isn’t he?’
He also made reference to the ‘Nanny State’, saying: ‘She has given over the running of the country to her daft sister.’
On a more serious note, Judge Ó Donnabháin said: ‘This man suffered a serious injury. He shattered his leg. It was an appalling injury.’
He said: ‘I have the greatest of sympathy for him. He is as genuine a man as has ever come before me.’
But, he added: ‘I cannot do anything, in law, for him. I will have to dismiss this claim.’