GRAVEDIGGER AWARDED €50,000 AFTER FALL AT FUNERAL
A WEXFORD gravedigger who slipped on ice fracturing his ankle during a funeral at Crosstown has been awarded over €50,000 by a High Court judge.
Mr Justice Kevin Cross said gravedigger Nicky O’Brien struck him as a most decent individual who did not exaggerate his injuries and did not even mention to the court he has been left with scars.
Grave digging, the judge said, is a noble vocation and the graveyard where the accident occurred - St Ibar’s - is a typical old Irish graveyard which has hazards and is not laid out with precision and military grace as those in continental Europe.
The judge believed the accident was caused by the slippy nature of the ground which was sheltered by a headstone. If there had been grit, the judge said this accident would have been avoided.
Mr Justice Cross also rejected there was contributory negligence on the part of Mr O’Brien.
‘He was not running. He was wearing his work boots. He did nothing inappropriate,’ Mr Justice Cross stated. Mr Justice Cross said he had been asked by the council to prefer the theory offered by a witness from the Met Office, who had examined the reports and the data for the date in question, over the evidence of witnesses to the accident.
Mr Justice Cross said he believed the witnesses to the accident.
Mr O’Brien, from Windmill Heights, had told the court he was walking away after the grave of an elderly woman had been covered to be filled in later when his foot went and he fell.
‘I felt a crack in my foot. The path was slippy. It should have been salted and it wasn’t,’ said the 56 year old.
He said rumours that he fell into the grave were untrue.
Mr O’Brien had to have reconstruction surgery on his right ankle and said he was out of work for about eight months after the January 8, 2009 accident.
James Flood, the caretaker in charge at the time of the incident, said he had previously asked for grit for a New Year’s Eve funeral, but did not get it.
On that occasion, mourners had to get out and push the hearse, he said.
Mr Flood said he saw Mr O’Brien falling and had called an ambulance.
Mr Justice Kevin Cross said the issue in the case was what caused Mr O’Brien’s fall and was it because of the slippy nature of the ground because of frost and ice. The judge accepted that salt had been requested and a bag of sand at the cemetery had been exhausted.
Mr O’Brien, in his evidence, said he was supported by the cemetery caretaker at the time and a mourner at the funeral. He awarded €40,000 for pain and suffering to date and a further €10,000 for pain and suffering in to the future with special damages came to a total of €50,850.
Nicky O’Brien clearing ice from the paths in Wexford town centre in November, 2011.