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Australian tourist wins €67,000 over fall

Warren Baldwin has been awarded €67,000. File photograph: Collins Courts.

Mary Carolan, Australian tourist wins €67,000 over fall at National Museum, Irish Times, 26 July 2019

Warren Baldwin (70) rolled down three stone steps during an incident in June 2016, 26 July 2019

An Australian tourist who injured his leg after slipping and rolling down three steps of stone stairs at the National Museum of Ireland has been awarded almost €67,000 damages by a High Court judge.

Judge Bronagh O’Hanlon said the museum’s Portland stone steps were shiny and slippy and 70-year-old Warren Baldwin, who ruptured a leg tendon in the incident, suffered significant trauma, discomfort, inconvenience, expense and upset.

The accident happened on the second day of Mr Baldwin’s trip to Ireland with his wife.

The judge found negligence in failing to provide a railing for a person to hold onto the entire way down the seven-step staircase.

The pensioner fell on the third last step from the bottom. The judge accepted arguments that, because the railing stopped before the end of the staircase, there was a tendency for people to move towards the centre portion of the staircase.

The National Museum steps date back to 1890, when the Kildare Street building was constructed. The wrought iron banister topped by a wooden rail terminates at the third last step from the bottom where it joins a stone balustrade.

Ms Justice O’Hanlon concluded that, had there been an adequate and safe handrail system on the steps in question, Mr Baldwin would not have suffered the injury.

She found the museum failed in its duty to take reasonable care to ensure the safety of Mr Baldwin because there was no proper and adequate handrail system on the stairway in question. CCTV footage of the stairway and fall should have been preserved and the employee who viewed that footage should also have been made available, she said.

The museum should have preserved and retained the one piece of evidence which would have truly clarified the situation, she said.

The court draws an inference from the fact the museum chose not to either have the witness who viewed the CCTV footage give evidence or produce the CCTV footage themselves, she said.

‘Polished smooth’

Mr Baldwin, who lives in Revesby, just outside Sydney, New South Wales, had sued the National Museum of Ireland as a result of the fall on June 5th, 2016. He alleged failure to provide adequate hand railing and that the steps had been permitted to become unsafe, were polished smooth from wear and did not have adequate anti-slip nosing.

The claims were denied and the museum contended the stairs were free from defect and there was one handrail.

It also pleaded contributory negligence on the part of Mr Baldwin, who it was claimed was rushing to descend and not paying attention. The museum said more than 470,000 people visited the National Museum in 2016 and Mr Baldwin was the only person who fell on the marble stairs.

Finding no contributory negligence on Mr Baldwin’s part, Ms Justice O’Hanlon said she found the tourist to be a very credible witness who came to court in good faith and travelled from Australia to bring his case to trial. He gave evidence in a “very candid, normal way” without embellishing matters in any shape or form, she said.

The case was a difficult one because Mr Baldwin’s recollection of the cause and mechanics of his fall, while inconsistent with the accident report form he filled in, was not inconsistent with the description of his fall when admitted to hospital, she said. The final award was €66,989.

Council of Australasian Museum Directors, c/o Ms Daryl Karp, Museum of Australian Democracy at Old Parliament House PO Box 3934 Manuka, Australian Capital Territory 2603 Australia, © CAMD 2020
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