Man injured at Traveller wedding reception loses damages claim

Thomas Connors attacked during ‘stampede’ of people trying to escape function room row

A case for damages over injuries sustained at a Traveller wedding was originally brought in the Circuit Court. After it was dismissed, Thomas Connors appealed and the president of the High Court, Mr Justice Nicholas Kearns, on Tuesday dismissed the appeal. File photograph: Collins Courts

A case for damages over injuries sustained at a Traveller wedding was originally brought in the Circuit Court. After it was dismissed, Thomas Connors appealed and the president of the High Court, Mr Justice Nicholas Kearns, on Tuesday dismissed the appeal. File photograph: Collins Courts

 

A man whose neck was slashed when a fight erupted at a Traveller wedding reception has lost his action for damages against the hotel where the function took place.

Thomas Connors (22), The Paddocks, Kilcock, Co Kildare, was aged 14 when he attended a cousin’s wedding at the Lumville House Hotel in the Curragh where he was attacked during a “stampede” of people trying to get out of the function room where a “free for all” broke out, the High Court was told.

He sued hotel proprietor Michael Lambe over the incident on November 27th, 2006, which he said left him with a scar on the back of his neck and led to him having nightmares for two years.

It was claimed there was a failure to prevent access to the function by unruly people or to have proper security in place. It was also claimed, because his cousin had paid a €1,000 breakage deposit, the hotel should have had security in place.

The Lambe family, who have run the hotel since 1971, denied the claims. They pleaded, while there had been trouble at one previous Traveller wedding, they had an unwritten policy not to put in security because they believed it was not required as it was a family function.

The case was originally brought in the Circuit Court. After it was dismissed, Mr Connors appealed and the president of the High Court, Mr Justice Nicholas Kearns, on Tuesday dismissed the appeal.

The judge said nothing could have been done to avoid what was “an outbreak of savagery” that night.

It was fair to describe the scene afterwards as one of devastation with photographs showing blood on the walls, chairs and tables upturned and glass everywhere, he said.

He agreed with evidence from the owner’s daughter, Lisa Lambe, the function room was “wrecked”  and said he found Ms Lambe a very impressive witness.

The judge praised the Lambe family for the non-discriminatory manner in which they treated the cousins of Mr O’Connor who had booked the wedding.

The hotel made no presumptions about those booking the event and did “not treat them as guilty” just because they were members of the Travelling community, he said.

It was “most unfortunate” the Lambes had to go through two court cases to be vindicated but they were now, he said.

He also awarded costs against Mr Connors whose case had been brought by his mother Joan as he was a minor at the time it was initiated.

Big row

Thomas Connors, now a married father of one, told the court there were about 70 people at the dinner reception earlier in the day and about 150 later in the evening, some of whom he believed were gatecrashers. 

There had been a smaller incident around 6pm involving a couple of men when some glasses were broken but that ended quickly, he said.

At about 10pm, a big row broke out and everybody tried to squeeze out one door at the same time, he said. He was grabbed from behind by an unknown person while someone else slashed him with either a knife or a bottle, he said.  He had to take refuge in the toilets along with others.

He also said he had been served two or three “Fat Frog” alcoholic cocktail drinks that night despite being only 14. The hotel denied that claim.

In her evidence, Lisa Lambe said she and staff had to barricade themselves into the lounge until the gardaí arrived.

In his decision, Mr Justice Kearns said it was suggested the hotel should have “geared up” for trouble because a security consultant, who gave evidence for the Connors side, had described “fracas” as being “part and parcel of Traveller weddings”.

The Lambes took the most honourable course and made no assumptions about this family who, it was assumed, were the best of people coming to enjoy the wedding, he said.

It was not his experience bouncers were required at weddings, whatever about them being required for dances going on into the small hours, the judge said.

He also rejected arguments the hotel should have been on alert because of the minor incident approximately 6pm, about which there had been no complaint.

“There was nothing to suggest what happened four hours later was going to erupt,” he said.