A pensioner who dislocated her knee and suffered ligament damage when she slipped and fell on her way into church in icy conditions has been awarded £60,000 in compensation.
Angela McCluskey, a retired hospital cleaner and school dinner lady, had gone to St Malachy's Church in Armagh in December 2010 to light a candle on the anniversary of the death of her niece. The weather conditions had been harsh for some time, putting a strain on local resources, and she slipped on the icy path after walking through the church's pedestrian entrance.
After undergoing surgery, Mrs McCluskey spent some time in a wheelchair whilst she recovered and still uses a walking stick for support. Adaptations were made to her home to assist with daily personal care before she moved to a bungalow.
Mrs McCluskey brought a personal injury claim against the St Patrick's Archdiocesan Trust for alleged negligence and breach of its statutory duty to oversee safety measures at the church.
The High Court concluded that the freezing conditions that prevailed at the time meant that the risk to members of the public was foreseeable. Had the path been gritted on the day in question and warning signs put in place, the accident could have been prevented.
The manager whose job it was to deal with the effect of adverse weather conditions at the premises was on sickness leave at the time of Mrs McCluskey's accident. She conceded that no assessment of possible risks to the public in such circumstances had been carried out, and no formal system was in place either to manage the church grounds or to provide cover in her absence.
Mrs Justice Keegan said, "I do not consider that an organisation such as this needs a sophisticated risk assessment process in place, but it does need to consider how to keep visitors reasonably safe on a basic level."
The Court found the Trust liable for Mrs McCluskey's injuries and awarded her £60,000 in compensation.