By Gordon Deegan

A mart operator has been ordered in court to pay €10,000 in personal damages to a young female Limerick dairy farmer from injuries she sustained after a 1t bull escaped from a pen at Ennis Mart five years ago.

At Ennis Circuit Court, judge Colin Daly ordered Clare Co-Operative Marts to pay 28-year-old, Rose Keating €10,000 for the incident on May 25, 2017 that left three other people injured by the Charolais bull.

Judge Daly stated that the appropriate general damages in the case was €20,000.

However, Judge Daly halved the payout to €10,000 after finding that Keating was 50% responsible for the injuries she suffered.

Judge Daly made this finding after concluding on the balance of probabilities Keating opened the latch to the pen that allowed the bull escape.

Incident with bull

In evidence, Rose Keating had denied opening the gate that allowed the bull escape.

Judge Daly made the award after Keating earlier rejected a settlement offer by Clare Co-Operative Marts. 

The settlement offer followed judge Daly telling counsel for Clare Co-Operative Marts, barrister, Sandra Barnwell, prior to lunch that her client should consider its position after hearing an outline of the case against Clare Co-operative Marts.

An internal report by Clare Co-Operative Marts recorded that “a major accident” took place on the morning of May 25, 2017 where three people were injured by a bull including two who were badly injured.

Counsel for Keating, barrister Emmet O’Brien told the court that his client has an extensive land-holding at Manister, Croom, Co. Limerick and qualified as a solicitor in January.

Keating told the court that she is a full-time farmer and has 50 dairy cows and 100 dry cattle.

In evidence, Keating recalled that she was in the process of opening the gate to the pen when the bull “burst out and came out on top of me”. She said that she “got the full force of the gate” and the bull continued on up on the ramp where he injured three others.

Keating said that she “was very thrown back – I was in shock”.

She added that she didn’t report her own injuries to the mart and didn’t go to her own GP for six months concerning her injuries after saying that she is quite pain resistant.

In his judgement, judge Daly stated that the bull charged and caused the gate to strike Keating “and slammed her against the wall”.

The judge stated: “It was the mart’s custom and practice at that time not to have any drovers or personnel working in this area. As a consequence of this incident, others were injured – some seriously.”

Keating told the court that she suffered injuries to her back and wrist from the bull escaping.

Court decision

Judge Daly said that he had to take into account that Keating did not attend her GP for six months after the accident and also subsequent to receiving legal correspondence from the mart.

The judge stated that in response to the legal letter from Clare Co-Operative Marts that alleged that Keating may have been responsible for the bull escaping, Keating did put Clare Marts on notice, that on the day she did suffer injuries and was reserving her position in relation to the proceedings.

Judge Daly stated that he was satisfied that Keating and her late father “were not supervised when unloading their animals into what the Mart general manager agrees ‘was a dangerous situation’”.

Judge Daly stated that the dangerous situation is the mixing of animals from different farms in the holding pen.

The judge added that he was also satisfied to find Keating was not supervised when she attempted to remove her animals.

“I am also satisfied to find that it was easily foreseeable that an accident of this type could occur and that there were insufficient measures in place by the mart to prevent this from happening,” the judge remarked.

Judge Daly stated that his conclusion is supported by the mart erecting signs in the area and procedural changes implemented within 12 months of the accident.

The judge said that the back and wrist injuries suffered by Keating are soft tissue injuries and at the lower end of the scale.

In evidence, Clare Co-Operative Marts general manager, Martin McNamara said that the first time he was made aware that Keating suffered an injury on the day, was almost two years later through correspondence from the Personal Injury Assessment Board (PIAB) in March 2019.

McNamara stated that between 65,000 and 70,000 animals are sold at Ennis Mart each year. He confirmed to the court that another man injured on the day had also sued the mart and “that case has been resolved”. 

Judge Daly awarded costs against Clare Co-Operative Marts.