High Court upholds decision to dismiss former inmate’s personal injuries claim over prison fall

Plaintiff slipped on small butter packet as he was climbing Midlands Prison stairwell

The High Court has upheld a decision to dismiss a personal injuries claim brought by a former inmate at Midlands Prison, Portlaoise, arising from his fall on a prison stairwell several years ago.

Graham Hynes, of Oakland Grove, Kildare town, Co Kildare, had appealed the dismissal of his claim by Judge Cormac Quinn to the High Court over injuries sustained after he slipped on a small butter packet as he was climbing the stairwell in B Wing of the prison.

In proceedings against the Minister for Justice, Governor of the Midlands Prison, Ireland and the Attorney General, Mr Hynes claimed that he was in significant pain and required assistance from two other prisoners to help get back to his cell following the fall on August 12th, 2014.

He appealed the dismissal of his action, which the State defendants, who denied the claims of negligence against them, had opposed.


In a judgment on Friday, Mr Justice Mark Heslin dismissed the appeal after holding that the alleged negligence could not be established against the defendants.

The judge added that the plaintiff was somebody who had many difficulties in his life, and the court acknowledged the steps Mr Hynes has taken “to tackle his substance abuse problems”.

These were steps that the plaintiff could be proud of, said the judge.

While the court wished Mr Hynes well in those endeavours it said that appeal must be dismissed on grounds including that the judge was of the view that Mr Hynes was “under the influence of drugs” when he fell.

The court noted that in his evidence Mr Hynes had said he was “not sure” if he had been under the influence of drugs or smoking heroin at the time of the incident.

The judge said that evidence had also been given that Mr Hynes had tested positive for drugs including opiates in samples he had provided in late July and late August 2014, while serving his sentence.

‘Lacked credibility’

The judge also said he did not accept that the prison was not adequately cleaned at the time of the incident as alleged by the plaintiff.

The judge also said that Mr Hynes’s claim that he was left in a cell for three days after the fall without any medical attention also “lacked credibility”. Mr Hynes had claimed he had fallen heavily on his right knee, injuring his leg and twisting his back in a fall. He also claimed that particles of food would often fall off trays and butter packets were thrown around by some inmates. He had been looking ahead at the time and had not seen the butter packet on the second-last step at the top of the stairwell.

Initially, Mr Hynes, who was released from prison in 2016, had not wanted to make a complaint against the governor but later did so.

He claimed that he had broken his leg in an earlier road traffic accident that had occurred 15 months earlier outside of the prison, but this injury had cleared up and he was symptom-free prior to the stairwell fall in the prison.

Judge Quinn, in dismissing Mr Hynes’s case before the Circuit Court, said he — the plaintiff — may have been intoxicated at the time of the incident.

The judge said he would also have dismissed the case on the basis that Mr Hynes had not been holding on to the stairwell railings, knew the area well and should have been looking where he was going at the time.