Wicklow hillwalker denies she gave different versions of fall

National Parks and Wildlife Service appeals finding it was negligent and must pay €40,000

Teresa Wall  leaving the Four Courts  after she was awarded €40,000 damages following judgment in her High Court action for damages earlier this year. File photograph: Courts Collins

Teresa Wall leaving the Four Courts after she was awarded €40,000 damages following judgment in her High Court action for damages earlier this year. File photograph: Courts Collins

 

A hillwalker who fell on a boardwalk on the Wicklow Way has rejected suggestions she had given different versions of how the incident happened.

Teresa Wall told Mr Justice Michael White at the High Court she fell after her foot snagged in a hole in one of the old railway sleepers making up a boardwalk close to the JB Malone memorial on the Sally Gap to Djouce trail, near Roundwood.

The incident occurred at about 4pm on August 6th, 2013, when Ms Wall and her husband were finishing a long walk on the boardwalk, placed on the lands by the National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS).

In cross-examination on Thursday, she rejected suggestions she previously told a NPWS employee in a phone conversation some days after the incident she had tripped on some chicken wire on the boardwalk.

Thursday was the second day of the NPWS appeal against a Circuit Court finding, which has significant implications for Ireland’s national parks, that the NPWS was negligent and must pay her €40,000 damages.

Phone conversations

Under cross-examination by Brian Murray SC, for the NPWS, Ms Wall agreed she had phone conversations with employees with the NPWS on August 14th.

When counsel put to her that she told NPWS district conservation officer Enda Mullen the incident happened after she tripped on chicken wire on the sleepers, she denied this.

She also denied she told Ms Mullen she was unable, due to her injuries, to go on a holiday to Slovakia that day or asked the NPWS about compensation.

Ms Wall agreed she had, on the same date, phoned the State Claims Agency and said she did so because she “wanted to know where she stood”.

At the time of the phone calls, she said she was on pain killers, antibiotics and valium.

An experienced hillwalker, Ms Wall described the boardwalk as “very dangerous” and said she contacted the NPWS over her concern of a risk to other walkers.

In her evidence, Enda Mullen said she spoke by phone to an “upset” Ms Wall on August 14th, 2013, and wrote details given by Ms Wall on an accident form.

Ms Wall did not say to her that she tripped and fell because of a hole in one of the sleepers, she said.

Ms Wall had told her she had tripped on wire and had spoken about being unable to go to Slovakia and not having insurance to cover her inability to go on holiday.

Under cross-examination by Louis McEntagart SC, for Ms Wall, Ms Mullen said she sent out a park ranger to the location of the incident, who found no hazardous wire on the route.

Rejecting counsel’s assertion the ranger was dispatched to investigate arising from an obligation of the NPWS towards Ms Wall, Ms Mullen said this was done as a matter of routine practice.

As a result of the fall, Ms Wall (60), Rathingle Cottages, Swords, Co Dublin suffered a gash to her right knee which required seven stitches, the court has heard.

Last April, Dublin Circuit Court Judge Jacqueline Linnane awarded Ms Wall €40,000 damages plus her legal costs after finding the NPWS was negligent and had not taken reasonable care to maintain the boardwalk in a safe condition.

Judge Linnane found the boardwalk was made up of second-hand wooden railway sleepers that were badly rotted, with protruding staples loosely holding down chicken wire.

She also found no contributory negligence on the part of Ms Wall.

The hearing continues on Friday.