High Court reporters
A woman has lost her damages claim over being allegedly scalded from boiling water from her hotel room’s kettle.
Mr Justice Garrett Simons found that, on the balance of probabilities, Anna Kolton had not established negligence by Parmont Limited, which trades as the Esplanade Hotel on Bray’s Strand Road.
Ms Kolton, with an address on Ridge Road, Portlaoise, Co Laois, had claimed for damages for alleged injuries arising out of an “explosion” of boiling water from her hotel room kettle on the evening of July 22nd, 2019.
These injuries allegedly included a significant burn, significant pain in the affected area and a permanent, discoloured area measuring between 20 and six centimetres.
After viewing her “scar”, Mr Justice Simons said he had been “unable to make out any discolouration or other indication of the scalding incident”. He agreed with the hotel’s medical report, which recorded a small area of mild redness on her scapula visible only on very close inspection.
He found the cosmetic disfigurement was properly classified as “very minor”.
The judge noted that instituting personal injuries proceedings in the High Court implies Ms Kolton considered her claim, which did not include loss of earnings, was valued in excess of €60,000.
Considering general damages for minor injuries would be less than €30,000, it was “difficult to understand” why the claim was not brought before the Circuit Court, he said.
It is in the public interest, he said, that claims are, in principle, brought before the lowest court with jurisdiction to determine them so as to achieve the proper and efficient administration of justice and to minimise the cost of litigation.
Noise ‘like a gunshot’
Via a Polish interpreter, Ms Kolton told the court in March that said she had been trying on clothes as she boiled the kettle for tea on the evening of July 22nd, 2019. Suddenly she heard a loud noise “like a gunshot or explosion” before she felt a burning sensation on her back and neck, she claimed.
She alleged the hotel had provided a kettle that was defective and not properly maintained and, thus, had exposed her to the risk of injury.
Parmont, represented by Jonathan Kilfeather SC and William Reidy BL, instructed by Kennedy's Law solicitors, claimed she had failed to use her common sense and knowledge of a simple household appliance.
Mr Justice Simons said he was satisfied from the evidence that, on the balance of probabilities, the kettle’s filter was not clogged as alleged. Even if it had been, the expert evidence established that it would not have resulted in an “explosion” of water, as had been described by the plaintiff and her then-boyfriend, he said.
The judge found the woman’s then-boyfriend, who had been present during the incident, was prone to exaggeration. The man said the explosion was so powerful it caused the lid to jerk to 180 degrees, with boiling water bursting from the kettle like a “geyser”.
His evidence was “inconsistent with any plausible version of events”, said the judge, particularly in relation to the water saturating the ceilings and walls.
Finding that on the balance of probabilities there was no negligence on the part of the hotel, Mr Justice Simons dismissed the action.
It was not necessary for the court to go further and make a definitive finding as to what had been the actual cause of the accident, as the burden of proving the injuries were caused by the defendant’s negligence lies with the plaintiff, he said.