Man seriously injured when hotel lift plummeted three floors awarded €508,000

Judge said what happened at Killarney Plaza Hotel was ‘stuff of nightmares’

Kevin Meehan ended up with multiple fractures to the spine and knee injuries and was in a wheelchair for three months after the accident. He is pictured with his wife Jennie Wong. Photograph: Collins

Kevin Meehan ended up with multiple fractures to the spine and knee injuries and was in a wheelchair for three months after the accident. He is pictured with his wife Jennie Wong. Photograph: Collins

 

A man who suffered multiple severe injuries when a lift in a Kerry hotel plummeted three floors to the ground has been awarded €508,000 in damages by the High Court.

The facts of the case where Kevin Meehan and four others were in a lift at the Killarney Plaza Hotel which suddenly dropped to the concrete basement car park “is the stuff of nightmares”, Mr Justice Michael Hanna said.

He “could only imagine” the sense of horror of those who observed the scene of mayhem after the accident and at the hospital, as the five members of the same extended family were brought in with injuries.

Kevin Meehan ended up with multiple fractures to the spine and knee injuries and was in a wheelchair for three months after the accident when the lift dropped into the underground basement car park.

The 43-year-old is one of five from the extended family, including his wife Jennie Wong, who sued over the accident which occurred as they tried to return to their rooms in the hotel after a wedding ceremony on July 9th, 2011.

Mr Meehan’s brother Andrew and his sister-in-law Patricia O’Leary from Co Meath previously settled on confidential terms their High Court actions following from the lift accident.

Kevin Meehan, from Celbridge, Co Kildare, had sued the hotel owners, Shawcove Ltd, with registered offices at Castleisland, Co Kerry; and companies involved in installing and maintaining lifts, Ellickson Engineering Ltd, in receivership, of Kilmurry, Waterford; Kilell Ltd, also of Kilmurry, Waterford; Otis Ltd, Naas Road Business Park, Dublin, and Otis Elevator Ireland Ltd, of the same address, as well as lift component manufacturer Daldoss Elevetronic Spa, of Valsugana, Italy.

It was claimed there was a failure to ensure the intended pathway from the car park was safe and free from hazard. There was a failure, it was also claimed, to install a proper, functioning lift from the car park to the hotel.

Liability conceded

The court has previously heard liability was conceded in the case in 2019 and the cases are before the court for assessment of damages only.

Mr Justice Hanna will now hear the cases of Ms Wong and of Paul Meehan, a brother of Kevin Meehan.

In 2017, engineering company Ellickson Engineering Ltd, now in receivership, was fined €750,000 after it was found guilty at Tralee Circuit Criminal Court of a single breach of the Safety, Health and Welfare at Work Act over the installation of the hotel lift in and around April 2004.

In his judgment on Wednesday, Mr Justice Hanna said there was no doubt Kevin Meehan suffered a frightening experience as he saw an immediate threat not only to his own life, but also to that of his wife.

The judge accepted he suffered flashbacks, which decreased over the years, but the accident had had a negative impact on his life. The judge was also satisfied that the case before the Circuit Court, where the engineering company had been found guilty and fined, had caused Mr Meehan to relive the “harrowing experience”.

It was clear Mr Meehan’s back injuries were at the severe end of the scale and he also suffered bilateral injuries to his knees, the judge said. He was a very active person from a young age and in the years after the accident he had increasing difficulty with his knees and will in the future require knee replacements. The injury to his right knee should be viewed as “a severe and permanent condition”.

Mr Meehan was a highly motivated and able man who had returned to work starting with a 12-hour week eight months after the accident, he added. He continues to work full time in a demanding job at managerial level.