76-year-old loses claim against Gleneagle for dancefloor fall

Tipperary woman Eileen Britton fractured her left wrist in two places


A 76-year-old woman, who had been dancing in three-inch heels, has failed in her claim against the Gleneagle Hotel in Killarney for slipping as she left the ballroom floor.

At the circuit civil court in Tralee, Judge James O’Donohoe said what she was engaged in given her age – 71 at the time – “was a hazardous activity in itself.”

The judge also awarded costs to the “well-run hotel”, saying it was a commercial enterprise “in an age of austerity”.

The Gleneagle had vehemently denied using dancing powder – which eases dancing – and said it was against the strict policy of the hotel to use any such substance on the maple floor. This was “one of the best dancing floors” in the country, the court was told.

It was the first time the hotel, where dancing on the ballroom takes place 300 nights a year, had been sued for a fall on the maple floor, the hotel’s barrister Henry Downing had said.

At around 1.50am on the Saturday morning of November 27th, 2009, Eileen Britton, of Twomileborris, Thurles, Co Tipperary, had been leaving the dance floor with her husband. The music had stopped and she was returning to her seat. It was during an annual event known as the Lisdoonvarna gathering, and “ the feet went from under her” a witness said.

The dance had been a waltz and she had been dancing for about an hour, she told Henry Downing for the Gleneagle.

Ms Briton said she had not seen anything the floor herself but found the whole floor “slippy”.

She had not been drinking, and had later found she had fractured her left wrist in two places which impacted severely on her given she was left-handed.

She had been wearing her “three-inch high heels,” these were the dancing shoes, she normally wore when dancing. She maintained the floor was unusually “slippy “ and had seen other people slipping.

Her husband said he had seen the voluntary organiser of the 30-year-old event, Albert Lawlor from Limerick, sprinkling powder. Mr Lawlor denied he was using the powder and said to do so would jeopardize his friendship with the Gleneagle.

Judge James O’Donohoe who had adjourned the matter from Thursday in Killarney for judgement, after hearing evidence for three hours, said the Gleneagle Hotel was “a very well run establishment and very well maintained”.

Costs (estimated at up to €25,000) were also awarded against Ms Britton.

There was no failure on the part of the proprietor, the judge found.

Significantly no powder had been seen by herself, no powder found on the floor and no powder found on her clothes,” the judge said.