The Defendants in this case were representatives of a GAA club in Meath. The Plaintiff was a member of said club who, when working as a volunteer, fell from the roof of the clubhouse and sustained serious injuries. The plaintiff was seeking damages for these injuries.
The Plaintiff argued that he was on the premises as a visitor and that under the provisions of the Occupier's Liability Act, 1995 the club owed him a duty of care.
The 1995 Act defines a visitor as an entrant, other than a recreational user who is present at the invitation or with the permission of the occupier, or by virtue of a contractual term or who is present as of right.
The plaintiff's argument was predicated on the assertion that the premises on which he was injured were in the occupation of the club.
The defendants did not call any witnesses in their defence. They argued the club was owned by its members, and as a member, the Plaintiff was along with the other members the occupier. In effect, they argued the Plaintiff could not sue himself.
The Court viewed the issue holistically and attempted to determine whether there was any element of the accident, which would have distinguished the Plaintiff from the membership. It was argued, without success, that the organiser of the voluntary work (the second named defendant) could have been said to have held a leadership role during the work that would have attracted liability. In rejecting this possibility Stack J emphasised the importance of the Plaintiff exercised his own free will and judgement in agreeing to assist the club. Accordingly, the Court dismissed the claim.
This case restated the law that in a club environment the legal entity of the club was its members and as such and it was impossible to sue yourself.
It is a welcome decision as the effect of a member being able to recover damages in this situation could dissuade volunteers from helping out their local club and have a damaging effect on the population at large.
Written by: Neil Cahill and Declan Meaghar
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