Hay v O'Grady

JurisdictionIreland
CourtSupreme Court
JudgeMcCarthy J.
Judgment Date04 February 1992
Neutral Citation1992 WJSC-SC 502
Docket Number[S.C. No. 212 of 1990]
Date04 February 1992

1992 WJSC-SC 502

THE SUPREME COURT

Finlay C.J.

Hederman J.

McCarthy J.

O'Flaherty J.

Egan J.

(212/90)
HAY v. O'GRADY

BETWEEN

HELEN HAY
PLAINTIFF/APPELLANT

AND

THOMAS O'GRADY
DEFENDANT/RESPONDENT

Citations:

COURTS ACT 1988

DUNNE V NATIONAL MATERNITY HOSPITAL 1989 IR 91

NORTHERN BANK FINANCE V CHARLTON 1979 IR 149

MOORE V FULLERTON 1991 ILRM 33

COLEMAN V CLARKE 1991 ILRM 841

CONSTITUTION ART 34

CONSTITUTION ART 34.4.3

COURTS (SUPPLEMENTAL) PROVISIONS ACT 1961 S48

RSC 1986 SI 15/1986

SS GAIRLOCH 1899 2 IR 1

HOLOHAN V DONOGHUE 1986 ILRM 250

M & M V AN BORD UCHTALA 1988 ILRM 203

HANRAHAN V MERCK SHARP & DOHME 1988 ILRM 629

MULLEN V QUINNSWORTH (NO 2) 1991 ILRM 439

PHILLIPS V DURGAN 1991 1 IR 94

HUGHES V O'ROURKE 1986 ILRM 538

BANCO AMBROSIANO V ANSBACHER & ORS 1987 ILRM 669

COGHLAN V CUMBERLAND 1898 1 CH 704

BENMAX V AUSTIN MOTOR CO 1955 1 AER 326

RIEKMANN V THIERRY 14 RPC 116

MERSEY DOCKS V PROCTER 1923 AC 253

QUILTER V MAPLESON 1881/2 LR 9 QB 675

SWETTLAMAN V RUSSELCOMBE

POWELL V STREATHAM MANOR NURSING HOME 1935 AC 243

DPP, PEOPLE V O'SHEA 1982 IR 384

PEOPLE V MADDEN 1977 IR 336

RSC O.58

Synopsis:

SUPREME COURT

Appeal

Facts - Assessment - Trial judge - Findings - Evidence - Sufficiency - Role of appellate court - Principles applicable - (212/90 - Supreme Court - 4/2/92) [1992] 1 I.R. 210 [1992] ILRM 689

|Hay v. O'Grady|

NEGLIGENCE

Employer

Mental hospital - Patient - Aggression - Attack - Supervisor - Personal injuries - Judgment for hospital - Appeal by plaintiff supervisor - Findings of fact by trial judge - Conclusion of law - Role of appellate court - Principles applicable - Rules of the Superior Courts, 1986, order 58, r. 1 - Constitution of Ireland, 1937, Article 34 - (212/90 - Supreme Court - 4/2/92) - [1992] 1 I.R. 210

|Hay v. O'Grady|

1

Judgment of McCarthy J.delivered the 4th day of February, 1992. [NEMDISS]

2

The Plaintiff is a nurse employed at the relevant time as a community facilitator at St. Mary's Hospital, Drumcarr, Co. Louth; for the purpose of these proceedings, the hospital is represented by the Defendant. It is part of the work of the hospital to bring patients into the ordinary life of the community. They are severe mentally handicapped patients. The role of the Plaintiff, who had no formal qualifications, was to facilitate patients to fit into the community by helping them to fend for themselves, to keep their person clean and the house clean. Patients are from time to time selected for such help and progress by a board with a psychologist, social workers, staff nurses and co-ordinators with the house parent sometimes involved. It is a management decision. The role of the facilitator is to act as a house parent. It is dedicated and sometimes difficult work.

3

About Easter 1988, the Plaintiff was transferred to work at a house in Oaklawns, Drogheda where there were four patients, including Margaret who was mentally handicapped and a diabetic. Her behaviour was changeable in that she was lethargic and at times given to throwing things or catching a person's hair or trying to bite somebody. She had moods. She is small in stature and of light weight, aged 31.

4

On a series of dates in May and June 1988 there had been some disturbances noted in respect of Margaret's conduct; in particular, on the 8th June there had been an incident involving one of the brothers of St. John of God. Management felt that a six week period in the main house (the hospital) was required. During that period she was on five or six nights permitted to stay at the community home at Oaklawns. At the expiry of the six week period, Margaret went back to Oaklawns on the 29th July after a further review which took place on the fourth of the six weeks. The decision was made to phase her back into the home. This was decided at a meeting on the 27th of July attended by the psychologist, the social worker, two nurses and two co-ordinators. On the 10th August, Margaret was with others at a hotel in Malahide, Co. Dublin. This was on a day's outing with three facilitators and fifteen patients. Margaret misbehaved; she snatched some food and had to be restrained. She took the chair from under a gentleman patron of the hotel when he stood up to lift something off the table; the man was very annoyed. The Plaintiff's reaction was to restrain Margaret and subsequently to arrange for a letter to be sent to the gentleman concerned apologising for the incident. Margaret was brought back to Oaklawns and it was there on the 18th August 1988 that the incident giving rise tothis claim took place when Margaret assaulted the Plaintiff. It would appear that a management meeting was held to discuss the Malahide incident; the evidence in this regard is somewhat incomplete. The psychologist, Mr. Joly, was at the time on holiday and the social worker, Mr. Hanrahan, was not informed of the Malahide incident. Mr. Hanrahan did express the view that the incident as described would not have warranted taking Margaret away from Oaklawns and back to the hospital. The co-ordinators, Ms. Doyle and Ms. Price were both aware of the Malahide incident upon which a report had been made.

5

The Plaintiff's case was summarised by the learned trial Judge asfollows:-

"For the Plaintiff, this case has been submitted on the basis that Margaret had proved herself to be unsuitable to return to home environment and she was returned on the 29th of July of 1988. And that, having regard to Margaret's previous history, that is to say, her history of aggression, prior to that date, it was negligent on the part of the Defendant to return her. Alternatively it was submitted that it was negligence in not being aware of this particular incident or, being aware of it, did not, at once, cancel Margaret's position as a member of the family home or, alternatively, it was suggested that if they were going to keep her in the family home there should also have been two house mothers who can control her."

6

At the hearing of this appeal, this summary has been accepted as accurate. Lynch J. went on -

"For the Defendant, it is submitted that the decision to refer Margaret to the benefit of their scheme, thatit was taken after great care, on each occasion, and, again, very great care had been taken on her return to the home on the 29th of July 1988. They say there is no negligence in assigning her to the family home, in the first instance, or any negligence in assigning her again on the 29th July or in not recalling her on the 10th August, when the Malahide incident took place. They submit that there was no negligence in expecting that the Plaintiff would have been competent to deal with Margaret on her own, along with the other members of that house. They further submit that there was no fault or blame whatever attaching to them and that there was no negligence. They submit that it would be unreasonable to have two persons in charge of that home. I have reached the following conclusions, but I do wish to say that this has been a very difficult case and I am satisfied that there was no fault or blame whatsoever so far as the Plaintiff is concerned. And, of course, the Defendants obviously had this scheme of rehabilitation for unfortunate mentally handicapped people and it is a most laudable work. I have to decide the case on its merits. This scheme, as I said, is obviously a very good scheme and, I think, it accords with state policy that those fit for community living should not, as far as is possible, be locked away in large institutions for the rest of their lives. It is inevitable that there would be some failure with these clients who are referred to these homes. This does not mean that they should abandon the scheme, because it is a good scheme, nor does it mean that if an individualfallsfrom grace, so to speak, because of some tantrum or other and that he or she must immediately be treated as forfeiting the benefit which has been offered to him, without...

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