A High Court judge has urged parties involved in six actions brought by the family an American couple who died after their pony and trap plunged down a steep rocky ravine in the Gap of Dunloe, Killarney, Co Kerry, to enter mediation talks.
The cases were due to kick off at the High Court next week but the court has been asked to adjourn the trial of the actions until next October.
Kerry County Council said two of the engineers on its side would not be available to give evidence in the last two weeks in July.
Mr Justice Paul Coffey was told that there was a very significant liability issue involved and the hearing of the actions may not be completed in the two weeks allotted, but could run to four weeks.
The family of Rosalyn Joy Few (64) and her partner Normand Larose (62) have sued Kerry County Council and the pony and trap driver, Dan Casey, of Beaufort, Killarney, as a result of the accident at the beauty spot on April 9th, 2018.
Ms Few and Mr Larose of Phoenix, Arizona, who were on the second day of their holiday to Ireland, were in the first pony and trap with members of their family travelling in two other traps behind when the accident happened on the narrow mountain pass towards Kate Kearney’s Cottage.
All the claims made in each case are denied.
In the High Court on Tuesday, Mr Justice Paul Coffey, noting the complexity of the claims, said he would adjourn the trial of the actions on the express condition Kerry County Council and Mr Casey consent to mediation talks.
Counsel for the family members Liam Reidy SC, instructed by solicitor Adrian Hegarty, earlier told the court that an offer of mediation had been refused by both defendants. He asked that the case be dealt with expeditiously. Expert witnesses, counsel said, could be facilitated by video link.
The court heard there were six cases with two equine experts, an engineer and two psychiatrists listed to give expert witness as well as 31 witnesses as to fact on the family side. The counsel for Kerry County Council, Henry Downing SC, said it was not expected that the evidence from the family side would be finished by the end of next week.
The counsel for Mr Casey, John Lucey SC, pointed out that it was a very contentious case with a number of claims for post-traumatic stress disorder.
Both counsels said they would have no difficulty with the judge’s proposal and said they would take instructions on the matter. Mr Justice Coffey told all the parties to liaise in relation to mediation and an adjournment date for the hearing of the actions.
Ms Few’s family have filed five of the actions. Ms Few’s daughter, Tonya Tier of West Richmond, Washington, has sued on behalf of her family over the death of her mother and also sued for nervous shock. Ms Tier’s husband, Bill Walther, and children Gavin (now 14) and Kaitlyn (now 20) have sued for nervous shock.
Mr Larose’s brother, Yvan Larose, from Magog, Quebec, Canada, has brought a separate action on behalf of the Larose family who live in Canada over the death of Normand Larose in the accident.
In all of the actions, it is claimed the pony and trap was allegedly caused to lose control on an alleged particularly treacherous stretch of roadway and tumble into a deep ravine.
It is further claimed there was an alleged failure to have any policies, procedures, protocols or other methods in place to ensure the safety of visitors to the Gap of Dunloe.
It is also claimed there was an alleged failure to ensure that the traps in which passengers were travelling were fitted with adequate braking systems or other security measures such as would ensure the safety of passengers.
In the proceedings, it is further claimed there was an alleged failure to erect any barriers, warning signs or other measures to ensure the safety of visitors approaching that particular section of the roadway.
There was, it is contended an alleged failure to warn visitors or passengers of the danger which allegedly existed.
All the claims are denied by the defendants.