The action by Richard Byrne is regarded as a test case relating to the duty of care owed to the recreational user of ancient sites and monuments. An English holidaymaker who sued for damages after he fell on an ancient stone spiral staircase at Quin Abbey, Co Clare, has lost his High Court action.
Mr. Justice Moriarty said it would be wrong if a situation was created where the OPW in its extensive duty as regards the national heritage were to be “needlessly dissuaded” from providing access to sites ranging from the more homespun Quin Abbey to the flagship Dublin Castle.
He claimed, after losing his footing when descending the ancient staircase, that he put his weight on the rope handrail but it failed to give him any proper support. He fell suffering severe personal injury, it was claimed.When he returned to Britain, he discovered the bones in his elbow had fused over and he now has arthritis in his shoulder and suffers pain, he claimed.
Mr. Justice Moriarty said he had immense sympathy for Mr. Byrne who had fallen as he made a manoeuvre in a tight and ancient place.
On a conscientious application of the law to the facts, he regretted he must conclude Mr. Byrne had not discharged the onus of proof. Mr. Byrne had not proven any liability on the part of the OPW in this matter.
Mr. Justice Moriarty said if a costs application was made for the two-day hearing he would only allow one day of costs and was sympathetic to the argument that this was a test case.
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