herald

Tuesday 6 December 2016

Woman who climbed Everest gets €40k for Wicklow Way fall

Teresa Wall fell and gashed her knee on the Wicklow Way (Collins Dublin)
Teresa Wall fell and gashed her knee on the Wicklow Way (Collins Dublin)

A hill walker who was injured when she fell on a rotting boardwalk on the Wicklow Way has been awarded €40,000 damages against the National Parks and Wildlife Service.

In a judgment that will have serious repercussions for all of the country's national parks, Judge Jacqueline Linnane said Ms Teresa Wall had been directed by signs to use the boardwalk which, the court held, was a structure placed on the land by the Parks and Wildlife Service.

Judge Linnane said it was clear from photos produced in evidence that the boardwalk had been made up of wooden railway sleepers that were badly rotted, with protruding staples holding down chicken wire.

She told barrister David McParland, for Ms Wall, that reasonable care had not been taken to maintain the boardwalk and this failure was responsible for his client's injuries, a gash to her right knee that needed seven stitches.

Barrister Kevin D'Arcy, for the State Claims Agency, had earlier told the court that although there had been hundreds of falls over the years by walkers in the country's various national parks, Ms Wall's was the first in which the service had been sued for negligence and breach of duty.

Ms Wall (59), of Rathingle Cottages, Swords, told the court she had climbed in the Himalayas and to base camp on Mount Everest and could no longer climb or run marathons.

Obeyed

She had been walking for 40 years and had walked "all around the world".

On August 6, 2013 she and her husband were coming down the mountain after a 20-mile walk when they had "obeyed the laws of the mountain" by following a sign that directed hikers on to the boardwalk.

She told Mr McParland that she used to run half-marathons on a weekly basis. She said her foot had snagged in a hole in one of the old railway sleepers that made up an EU ground conservation boardwalk just below the JB Malone memorial on the Sally Gap to Djouce trail near Roundwood.

Mr McParland said the wooden walkway constituted "a structure" and the Occupiers Liability Act imposed a much higher duty of care on the Parks and Wildlife Service in the maintenance and management of such a development.

Mr D'Arcy had argued that Ms Wall had voluntarily participated in a rugged sporting activity of known reasonable risks and the Parks Service was entitled to rely on the doctrine of volente non fit injuria (no wrong is done to one who consents).

Judge Linnane said Ms Wall was an experienced hill walker and very fit. She had been wearing appropriate clothes, walking boots and had walking sticks. The judge added that there had been no contributory negligence on Ms Wall's part.

She awarded her €40,000 damages together with her legal costs but granted a stay on the decree and costs order to facilitate consideration of an appeal to the High Court.

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