Ahmed v Longford Town Council: no order for costs against unsuccessful plaintiff who put forward a credible case

twisted-swings-1Here, the Court made no order for costs against the unsuccessful Plaintiff, as he put forward a credible case that could have persuaded the trial judge to find in his favour.

Background

The Plaintiff was a ten year old boy when he fractured two bones in his arm in a fall from a playground swing owned by Longford Town Council. Through his father, he issued proceedings against the Council claiming its negligence caused his injuries. In the High Court he presented expert evidence that the Council had deviated from best practice by setting the swing seat two centimetres too low and by not covering a sufficient area around the swing with rubber matting. He claimed that, while swinging, the low seat caused him to catch his foot on the ground and fall. As the Council had not covered a sufficient area with matting he fell on a hard surface, causing his injuries. The Council presented expert evidence that the two centimetre deviation in the seat height was not of significance and there was no causal connection between that deviation and the Plaintiff’s fall. The Council also presented evidence that the type of matting used led to a significant decrease in head injuries but not to long bone fractures. The smaller area covered by matting did not therefore cause the Plaintiff’s injuries.

In the High Court, de Valera J held that the Council were not negligent and there was no causal connection between the Council’s deviation from standards and the Plaintiff’s injuries. The Plaintiff appealed that decision to the Supreme Court.

Law

In O’Hay v Grady [1992] 1 IR 210 the Court set out when an appellate court can overturn a finding of fact by a trial judge. When a trial judge’s finding of fact is supported by credible evidence an appellate court cannot overturn that finding regardless of the evidence available to support an opposing finding: The truth is not the monopoly of any majority. An appellate court can overturn a finding of fact, however, if the trial judge has made a material error in the way he reached his decision.

Decision

On review of the trial transcript and the arguments on appeal, Clarke J, with MacMenamin and Laffoy JJ concurring, held that both sides had presented credible evidence which could have supported a decision by the trial judge in either’s favour. The trial judge, however, preferred the Council’s evidence. As he made no material error in how he reached his decision, the Court could not disturb his decision.

Costs

After Clarke J delivered the Court’s decision he took submissions on costs. He also read paragraph [5.16] for the benefit of Counsel.

Given the circumstances of the case, that proceedings were taken in the best interest of the infant, that it was not unreasonable for those representing the infant to take the proceedings, and that there was a credible basis for both the trial and the appeal, the Court held that there would be no order for costs for the trial or the appeal.

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  1. 2014 Review: July | scoirl

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