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Award Reversed on Appeal

Plaintiff who slipped on ice outside his apartment has € 60,000 award overturned on appeal.

The appeal court found the plaintiff had failed to explicitly plead certain claims of negligence and in addition the trial judge had made some incorrect findings.

The plaintiff lived in an apartment where his hall door led on to an open-air landing from where steps led down to the ground. He left for work early in November 2016 and it had been icy overnight. It was also dark as the light over the plaintiff’s door was broken. He slipped on ice and fell down some steps. He sued the management company.

The High Court awarded him € 60, 000 damages and found that: 1. The path outside was in the control of the defendants who had a duty to grit these areas. 2.Anti-skid strips should have been fixed to the steps. 3. The faulty light contributed to the problem.

However, on appeal, the court found the trial judge was wrong in certain of his findings. The hall door light was never the responsibility of the defendants as it belonged to the plaintiff. The plaintiff had relied on three issues at trial: The lack of lighting, the absence of gritting and securing the steps with anti- skid material. However, although the lighting issue had been pleaded late in the day, the other issues were never actually pleaded at all despite a helpful engineer’s report secured by the plaintiff. The court found this was unacceptable and insisted the parties should provide full and detailed particulars of each allegation to make up their claim. The lack of detailed pleadings made it impossible for the defendants to deal with the claims they had to meet based on the pleaded case.

The engineer’s report was detailed but the court stated this was no substitute for pleadings and every plaintiff had to properly plead a case they wished to have tried. The report was not conclusive on the benefit of anti-skid matting. As for gritting, the court found that gritting may have avoided the accident but did not mean the defendant was therefore liable for the accident. The defendant was not under a duty to lay grit on the landing. A property management company would have obliged, if asked, but none of the 98 complexes it managed required gritting on its footpaths or steps.

It was claimed the management company should have gritted the common areas in advance of bad weather, but the court held this was too onerous and an unreasonable duty to fix management companies with.

The appeal court found the plaintiff was also bound to take reasonable care of his own safety. The plaintiff had lived there for years and should have anticipated the likely consequences of ice on the landing in very cold weather. He was largely responsible for his own accident. The court allowed the appeal and overturned the earlier award.

Ahmed v Castlegrange Management Company limited [2022] IECA 269

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