Woman loses action against hotel over fall

Judge awards costs against woman in case against Talbot Hotel in Wexford

A woman who suffered severe injuries after falling while dancing to rock music at a friend’s 40th birthday party in a hotel has lost her High Court action for damages.

Ms Justice Mary Irvine ruled 57-year-old Margaret Walsh fell after becoming "destabilised" due to the kitten heel of her boot getting caught in the strap of another woman's sandal and not, as was alleged, because the dance floor at the Talbot Hotel, Wexford, was slippery as a result of drinks spillages.

The judge also awarded costs of the two day action against Ms Walsh.

The case is the third heard, and dismissed, in the last three weeks over the issue of liability for injuries suffered by women while dancing. The two earlier actions were against Copper Face Jacks, the well-known nightclub at Dublin’s Harcourt Street.


Ms Walsh, from Wexford, had sued the Talbot Hotel over injuries suffered on May 23rd, 2009 after she fell on a dance floor which, she alleged, was wet and dangerous. She alleged there was inadequate supervision of the dance floor and that young children had been allowed to bring drinks onto it.

The hotel denied any liability in the matter.

In her judgment, Ms Justice Irvine said she sympathised greatly with Ms Walsh because of the severity of her injuries and the pain and suffering she had to endure due to the horrific nature of an injury to her hip . It was also clear her injuries had made it substantially more difficult for Ms Walsh to cope with the significant demands she faced caring for her seriously disabled daughter.

However, she could not allow her sympathy to interfere with her judgment in respect of liability, the judge said.

She was not satisfied Ms Walsh’s injuries were sustained in the manner alleged by her. Nor was she satisfied, as a matter of probability, that there were children or other young people dancing on the dance floor while carrying drinks in their hands.

The fall happened just after midnight and she thought it unlikely many of the eight children under 12 at the party were still present, the judge said. If there were children there, she thought it highly likely, if they were dancing with drinks in their hands, their parents or some other adults would have intervened to restrain them.

The judge accepted evidence of the hotel’s deputy manger that it had a strict policy drink was not to be taken onto the dance floor and members of staff were properly trained to implement this policy.

She also noted no other witness was called to support Ms Walsh’s evidence the floor was slippery and children were bringing drinks onto the dance floor.

Ms Justice Irvine said she was not satisfied it was the presence of any type of liquid on the floor that caused Ms Walsh to fall.

The judge ruled Ms Walsh sustained her injuries as a result of becoming destabilised when the kitten heel of her boot managed momentarily to become caught in the strap of the other woman’s sandal when they were dancing together. That caused her to fall to the ground, the judge ruled,

Mary Carolan

Mary Carolan

Mary Carolan is the Legal Affairs Correspondent of the Irish Times