Woman loses claim after 'dirty dancing' at Copper Face Jacks

Arm injuries suffered when claimant danced backwards to Shakira with male colleague

A woman who sued over arm injuries suffered after a man fell on top of her while they were dancing at well-known Dublin nightclub Copper Face Jacks has lost her High Court action for damages.

Ciara O'Connell (33), a sales representative,  was dancing backwards to a Shakira song with a male colleague, Noel Humphries,   when the accident happened at the Harcourt Street venue on August 4th 2006.

Mr Justice Sean Ryan ruled today this was an "unfortunate" accident but he could not find Ms O'Connell's injuries could be attributed to a slippery floor and therefore could not find the nightclub was negligent.

Ms O’Connell and Mr Humphries were engaged in modern dancing “of the kind that takes place in nightclubs and which is not easy to describe in terms that make sense”, he said.  The nightclub had described it as “dirty dancing” after the film, he noted.


While the floor of the nightclub was under the defendant’s control, the dancing activity of Ms O’Connell and Mr Humphries was not and it was possible the accident could have happened without a slippery floor or a dangerous site, he said.

Ms O’Connell and Mr Humphries were dancing backwards in close proximity in a situation that carried the risk either of them would miss a step or lose their footing and that could happen relatively easily, he said.  She was moving in a backwards direction with Mr Humphries dancing similarly in unison with her and they were quite close together.

As they moved backwards like that, Mr Humphries fell back and on top of Ms O’Connell who hit the ground heavily and suffered the injury.  “I do not think that this was in any way reckless or dangerous dancing but it did carry with it the risk of falling,” he said.

The accident was unfortunate and Ms O’Connell was unlucky to have suffered the arm injury, or indeed any injury but that was “just the combination of circumstances that meant Mr Humphries fell on top of her which precipitated the heavy fall resulting in her sustaining the injury that she did”.

Ms O’Connell (33) Glenview Park, Tallaght, Dublin fractured her arm and was out of work for three months after the incident.

In her action against Breanagh Catering Ltd, trading as Copper Face Jacks, she claimed Mr Humphries slipped on the floor, which she pleaded was wet, and fell onto her causing her to fall to the ground.  The defendant denied liability and also pleaded Ms O'Connell was engaged in dangerous and reckless dancing with  Mr Humphries.

Earlier in his judgment, the judge said there was some evidence part of the floor was wet and there was video camera evidence indicating some of the nightclub patrons were drinking while dancing, he said. Spillages were also possible as people carried drinks from the bar.

While he was satisfied the floor on which Ms O’Connell was lying was wet, it did not follow that the floor area where Mr Humphries fell was wet, he said.   The issue was not whether the floor was wet but if it was slippery.

The dance floor, he noted,  consisted of pine flooring bound with hardwood - erica - board inserts to provide contrast and pattern.  An engineer who tested it after pouring water on it found the pine boards accounting for most of the dance floor were safe even when wet.

While the hardwood inserts were not porous and, if wet, would be slippery, there was no evidence the accident happened by Mr Humphries slipping on the hardwood strip, he said.

The judge also noted there was no evidence Ms O’Connell or her other work colleagues were drunk or incapable on the night of the incident.  They had gone home after work and met later about 10.30pm, he noted.

On foot of those and other findings, the judge dismissed the case and awarded costs against her to the nightclub. He also directed the nightclub to pay Mr Humphries legal costs arising from it having joined him to the case.

Mary Carolan

Mary Carolan

Mary Carolan is the Legal Affairs Correspondent of the Irish Times