A 39-year-old civil servant, who fractured his wrist when he hit a punch ball on a “boxing machine” in a Dublin pub, has been awarded €30,000 damages against Flannery’s sports bar in Cambden Street.
Liam Murphy, of The Dale, Woodpark, Ballinteer, Dublin 16, told the Circuit Civil Court that after watching the Cork-Clare all-Ireland hurling final September 8th, 2013, he and a friend had visited Flannerys where a group of sports fans were competing punching the ball.
Barrister Fintan Hurley, counsel for Mr Murphy, said there was a boxing machine in the bar and if one paid a euro into it a punch ball dropped down. Punching the ball registered a score according to how hard it was hit.
Mr Murphy had been in competition with a number of people and hit the ball seven or eight times. Mr Hurley, who appeared with Denis Linehan Solicitors, Charleville, Cork, told Judge Jacqueline Linnane that no punch glove had been provided for protection purposes.
The court heard that the morning after the competition, Mr Murphy’s right hand and wrist felt sore and he had gone to a doctor who had referred him to St Vincent’s Hospital where it was revealed he had broken his right scaphoid bone. He had to have surgery on his injury and he had been in a plaster for several weeks.
‘Test your strength’
Mr Hurley produced several articles from health journals highlighting research into fractures arising from “test your strength” punch-ball machines. One expert stated that there had been an increasing number of scaphoid fractures attributable to the use of such machines, which was commonly found in amusement parks and public houses.
The article pointed out that fractures caused by these machines, even if diagnosed and treated promptly, did not always unite. One article referred to an awareness of anecdotal reports of injuries sustained while punching these balls throughout the United Kingdom.
It stated that the combination of alcohol and peer group pressure could conspire to produce significant injuries and owners of pubs needed to be aware of the risks of these machines.
Mr Murphy, who told the court he had a few drinks while watching the all-Ireland final, sued Camden Street Taverns Limited, trading as Flannerys and Halpol Limited, South William Street, Dublin, suppliers of the boxing machine, which had been joined as a third party and which did not appear.
David Semple, forensic engineer, stated that the machine had been provided in an emporium that sold drink and he submitted it was inevitable that people would feel obliged to have a go at punching the ball to see what score could be achieved.
Counsel for Flannerys told the court that the plaintiff should have realised that the machine was only a game and should not have been engaged in a highly competitive manner.
Judge Linnane, who said it was inappropriate to have such a machine in a public house, awarded Murphy €30,000 damages and his legal costs. The court granted Flannerys leave to apply with regard to an indemnity or contribution on the part of Halpol Limited.
The outcome of the case is likely to cause pubs, clubs and funfairs to look again at the risk and safety aspects of having such a machine on their premises.