Once or twice in the last twenty years I have had the misfortune to accidentally fall. I do not remember any particular one except perhaps a slip on a snowy, icy footpath where I hammered the back of my head very hard off the concrete. It was like a non-stop hangover for five days before it began to wear off.
Now I am aware there is a 'compensation culture' out there and there are many who refuse to accept that they could possibly have an accident. In their book, if anything bad happens to them then someone else must be at fault.
However, I believe that if there is blame to be apportioned for the very existence of a compensation culture, then it falls squarely on the shoulders of the courts and their judges for handing out awards as if the taxpayer was an impersonal bottomless pit. Awards of one to two hundred grand are routinely tossed around for the loss of a digit.
But this week, the High Court really took the piss. The scene was the Mullingar Park Hotel restaurant where a certain Annette O’Connor of Santry, Dublin was lead to her seat by a helpful waiter. We are told that the lad pulled back her chair to allow her to sit down and then he eased it forward, (or perhaps she did that herself), to get her knees under the table, in the traditional fashion. I am not familiar with this particular hotel but I like the fact they had real tablecloths on the tables.
So anyway, 'yer wan' slides her knees under the tablecloth and they are met with resistance in the form of a table leg. How horrific! Who is responsible for putting legs on tables, I hear you cry? Why does the table not just float there in suspended animation like everywhere else? Anyway, Annette claims to have banged her knee off the offending leg. At this point dear reader you must be wondering whether she took another seat at the table, which didn't feature a table leg or perhaps she just parted her knees for the duration to accommodate the leg instead. The article doesn't say.
But what it does say is that, "Ms O’Connor claimed she immediately felt pain and shock but had her meal before retiring to her room where staff had brought her an ice pack and a drink to settle her nerves." It goes on further in a similar vein to add, "When she returned home she had attended her local doctor, Beaumont Hospital for X-rays and later a specialist in muscle spasm. The injury had disrupted her personal and professional life."
I mean, for fuck's sake, she tapped her knee off a table leg, she wasn't held down and repeatedly beaten with one. Then, "A forensic engineer said if he had been asked pre-accident to risk assess the set up in the dining room he would not have directed the hotel to warn people about the presence of the table leg under the tablecloth." Perhaps guests should be warned about the risk of being hit by fucking lightening at their tables? How about the percentage chance of the shagging roof falling down. Do guests need to be told that just in case. Maybe we should all be appointed a State-sponsored forensic engineer to accompany us everywhere listing out imaginary dangers ahead and behind.
But no! "Ms O’Connor told Padraig McCarton, senior counsel, who appeared for her with barrister Paul Twomey, that she had not been given any warning from the restaurant manager that the leg was hidden right beneath where she had been directed to sit." Then that judgment was appealed to the High Court where Ms Justice Faherty affirmed the lower court’s finding and increased damages to €20,000 and costs. Maybe she, (Annette), should goad the defendants even further and get them to appeal to the Supreme Court where she would surely be offered a cool million.
If I had my way I would have quietly informed Ms Justice Faherty that any award she offered Annette would be deducted straight from the Justice's salary at source. I wonder if Annette would have got a single bob for her trouble then? And would Annette's disrupted personal and professional life have got quickly back on track too, I wonder?