Former Garda repeatedly stabbed awarded ‘record’ €1.1m damages

Mr Justice Bernard Barton, in handing down his reserved judgment, told barrister Paul O’Neill, counsel for the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform, that Garda Daryl Mullen had suffered serious physical injuries.

The judge said the 38-year-old former garda of Slieve Bracken, Gortlee, Letterkenny, Co Donegal, had suffered a vicious assault and battery seven years ago while on duty in James Street, Westport, Co Mayo.

Judge Barton, in a Garda Compensation case, said he was awarding Mr Mullen €1,093,179.  He told Eoin McCullough SC, who appeared with barrister Pat Purcell for Mullen, he was awarding €400,000 general damages, €300,000 special damages, and €348,179 for loss of earnings, pension and gratuity.

Liam Guidera, of Mason Hayes Curran solicitors for Mr Mullen, said after the judgment he believed the award was a record one in the area of garda compensation.

Judge Barton said that in august 2009 the then 32-year-old garda, formerly from Tuam, Co Galway, was on plain clothes duty with a unit of the drugs squad during a street festival in Westport.

2The Four Courts, Dublin

He and his colleagues had been carrying out searches for illicit drugs and as he confronted a group acting suspiciously one of them produced a knife “which he drove into the left side of Garda Mullen’s abdomen.”

Judge Barton said the assailant, who had later been charged and jailed, had repeatedly stabbed Garda Mullen causing what he described as “horrific internal injuries.”

He bled profusely and was rushed to the operating theatre of Mayo General Hospital where he had undergone emergency major surgery.  Afterwards he had been in the intensive care unit for a week.

He had suffered serious injuries to his groin, stomach and lungs and later developed MRSA during ongoing treatment in University College Hospital, Galway.  He had suffered serious pain.

Judge Barton said that in 2011 Garda Mullen, now married with a family, had been certified fit to return to light duties.  He was assigned as a detective garda but his hopes of gradual improvement of his symptoms and continuation of service as a garda detective were not to be realised.

Garda Mullen, following further surgery, had suffered devastating psychological consequences, not the least of which was that he never again obtained a fitness certificate to return to work.  He was discharged on the grounds of ill health.

Following the release from prison of his assailant to the Westport/Castlebar area, Mr Mullen and his wife and family moved to Letterkenny, Co Donegal.

The judge said Mr Mullen, apart from pain-killing medication including injection therapy, continued to receive counselling and antidepressant medication.

“In this regard his evidence was that he sees no end to these problems, nor any future for himself,” Judge Barton said.  “Although he can drive short journeys he has become socially withdrawn, remaining most of the time at home, the only place where he feels secure and safe.”

A doctor who treated Garda Mullen told the court improvement would be slow.  He had supported Mr Mullen’s decision to retire on health grounds even from light duties. In the doctor’s view there was a connection between his role in the gardai and the profoundly negative and ongoing consequences of the assault.

Judge Barton said it was the view of gthe court that such improvement as may likely occur in relation to his injuries it was unlikely to be such as would result in his being able to secure and retain a stress-free basic employment resulting in any meaningful income.

Mr O’Neill, for the State, appeared with Mr Colm Smyth SC.

Woman awarded €85k after she was covered ‘from head to toe’ by tin of varnish when lid fell off

A woman has been awarded €85,000 for injuries she received after she was covered “from head to toe” by a tin of varnish when the lid fell off as she was scanning it at a self-service checkout in a DIY store.

It would have been better if the barcode on the tin of Ronseal had not been on the lid which meant Wendy Delaney (68) had to turn it upside down to scan it, Mr Justice Michael Hanna remarked when he made the award.

Ms Delaney, a community worker from Newlands Road, Clondalkin, Dublin, sued B&Q Ireland in the High Court over the accident in its Tallaght store on May 30, 2009.

She said she was covered from “head to toe” by varnish which she cleaned off afterwards in the store’s staff bathroom.

She later had to be treated for injuries to both eyes but also suffered a depressive reaction, the court heard.

Mr Justice Hanna said Ms Delaney was a qualified nurse who left nursing to work in full-time community care in the area of women’s rights and education.

She and her daughter went to the B&Q Belgard Road store to buy some varnish and chose a 2.5litre tin of Ronseal.

She decided to use the self-service checkout and had to invert the tin when the lid fell off and she dropped it causing significant personal injuries, the judge said.

Ms Delaney and her daughter, as well as a manager from B&Q, gave their evidence impeccably and fairly and it was a pleasure to listen  to them, he said.

While there was no CCTV evidence, through no fault of B&Q, and no other witnesses, there was evidence from engineers on both sides as to what may happen if a tin of varnish slipped in this way, he said.

What was known about what happened and “as one who does not frequent the darkest corners of DIY stores”, the judge said it was clear varnish is less viscous than paint and if it was going to fall out it was going to splash like a liquid and spill in every direction.

The barcode was on the lid and it seemed to the judge the “safe place” to have it would be on the base or on the side “but life does not work like that”.

He found there was no issue of contributory negligence by Ms Delaney.

She received treatment in the Eye and Ear Hospital and after a couple of weeks she was on the mend although she now needs to lubricate her eyes if she intends to read or look at a screen for a long time, he said.

The more serious aspect of her injuries was that she suffered a depressive reaction and while her doctor said she was pre-disposed to this reaction,  the incident had increased the risk, he said.  She had also been unable to complete a Masters degree as a result though she hoped to do so in the future, he said.

In the circumstances, she was entitled to recover “significant though not enormous damages” which he assessed at €85,000, including €20,000 special damages.

He granted a three-week stay to Finbarr Fox SC, for the defendant, in the event of an appeal.



Original Article – The Irish Independent