Dancer loses €60,000 damages claim against Dublin nightclub
‘High-risk’ manoeuvre caused woman to fall off chair and injure her back, judge rules
Professional dancer Jekaterina Bulgakova, of Malahide, Co Dublin, failed in her damages claim against Wrights Cafe Bar in Swords. Photograph: Collins Courts
A “high-risk” high kicks manoeuvre by a professional dancer in a Dublin nightclub had caused her to fall off a chair and injure her back, a judge decided Wednesday when he threw out her €60,000 damages claim.
Mother of three Jekaterina Bulgakova (33) claimed in the Circuit Civil Court that the uneven placing of mats under the chair on which she performed had made it unstable.
Ms Bulgakova, of Waterside Grove, Swords Road, Malahide, Co Dublin, told her counsel Noel Cosgrove that the mats had been placed on stage to mask an overspill of baby oil used by bodybuilder performers the night before her August 2014 accident.
She sued nightclub owners Wright’s Cafe Bar, Airside, Swords, for damages for personal injuries on the grounds staff had been negligent in placing the mats and causing an instability to her stage prop, a silver chair.
Barrister Shane English, counsel for the night club, told Judge James O’Donohoe that Ms Bulgakova had, of her own volition, performed a manoeuvre that had put herself in danger and had been responsible for her own downfall.
Mr English, who appeared with solicitors Gore and Grimes, said the night club owners were unaware even on Wednesday of whether or not a thin mat had been placed on stage under the chair and suggested it would have made practically no difference to its stability.
Ms Bulgakova, whose legal team presented photographs of her act to the court, said that with her bum resting on the seat of the chair she had thrown her legs in the air and had finished up draping them over the back of the chair.
She said the chair had become unstable and had wobbled. She had fallen backwards falling to the floor which she had hit feet first although in a backwards bending position.
She told the court she had been helped to her feet by a member of staff and had walked to a dressing room where she had taken painkillers and applied an ice pack to her back.
Ms Bulgakova said there had never been mats on the stage floor during any performance during the five years she had worked weekends at the club for €100 a night. She had been told that performers rubbing baby oil on themselves in an earlier production had spilled oil on the floor.
She told Mr English she had not gone back to work at the club following the accident. She had been a professional dancer all her life and did not have a choreographer. She was responsible for all her own dance manoeuvres.
Judge O’Donohoe told Mr English he would determine liability on the issue of negligence before going into the detail of injuries. He was satisfied Ms Bulgakova had suffered a back injury.
The judge said he had viewed “unsatisfactory” video evidence of Ms Bulgakova’s fall but it had shown her coming in contact with the stage floor.
“She is clear and I think she has established that there was a matted area underneath her chair following a baby oil spillage on the night before the accident and claims her fall had been caused by the destabilisation of the chair,” the judge said.
He said the manoeuvre she had been carrying out was a rather unusual and an artistic form of dancing but she had given three versions, the latest to her doctor, of how the accident had happened.
Dismissing her claim with an order for costs in favour of the night club, Judge O’Donohoe said he was satisfied, despite accepting there was an area of matting under the chair, that no negligence could be attached to Wrights Cafe Bar.
“I accept she has had an injury to her back and that there was no element of fraud or exaggeration in her evidence,” he told Mr English.
“However, her dance manoeuvres were so high risk that the defendant cannot be reasonably expected to have been in a position to prevent such an accident,” the judge said.