Damages claim for loss of eye rejected


A woman who sued her partner’s parents after she lost an eye in a domestic accident on the parents’ farm is not entitled to damages from them, a High Court judge has ruled.

Had Elaine Newman (27) won her case, it had been agreed damages of €200,000 would be paid arising out of the accident at the home of Marie and Patrick Cogan, Delganstown, Delvin, Co Westmeath on June 22nd, 2007.

In what Ms Newman described as a “horror story”, her eye was catastrophically damaged when her partner Emmett Cogan fell and a piece of frozen meat in his hand smashed the glass pane in a door, causing pieces of glass to hit her right eye. It was severely injured and she had to have it removed and an artificial eye inserted.

Liability denied

Ms Newman, from Mullingar but now living with Mr Cogan in Australia, claimed that Mr and Mrs Cogan failed, under section 3 of the Occupiers Liability Act 1995, to take reasonable care to ensure that she, as a visitor, did not suffer injury by reason of any existing danger. The Cogans denied liability.

Dismissing her case yesterday, Mr Justice Iarfhlaith O’Neill said the Cogans could not be reasonably found to have failed in their duty of care in choosing the type of non-shatterproof glass in the door.

Patrick Cogan, a farmer, had replaced the glass himself in 2000-01, it having been broken a number of times when Emmett Cogan and his siblings were children playing hurling and football around the house, the judge said.

Mr Justice O’Neill found that Patrick Cogan had installed the replacement glass competently and said the only complaint that could arise was about the type of glass used.

While satisfied from evidence of two engineers that a professional glazier would not have installed this type of glass, it did not follow that Mr Cogan’s choice of glass was to be condemned for that reason.

Artificial duty of care

To hold Mr Cogan and his wife negligent for choosing this particular glass would impose an artificial duty of care on them which they probably had no real chance of discharging.

In choosing a glass commonly used in dwellings, it could not be reasonably said Mr Cogan failed in his duty to Ms Newman to take reasonable care to protect her from dangers on the premises, he ruled.