Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 2 August 2014

Pensioner who fell down Odyssey steps at Lionel Ritchie gig loses court battle

A pensioner who fell down steps at a Lionel Ritchie concert in Belfast is not entitled to damages, a High Court judge ruled today.

 Mr Justice Horner dismissed an action 73-year-old Kathleen McAllister brought over injuries suffered on her first visit to the Odyssey Arena.

 Rejecting claims that the venue was dangerous and inadequately lit, he said hundreds of thousands of spectators had used the steps without accident.

 Mrs McAllister had gone to the Odyssey with her son to see the US soul star perform in March 2007.

 She was holding her son's hand as they went to take their seats during the support act, accompanied by a steward flashing her torch to direct them.

 As they reached their area Mrs McAllister's son let go of her hand.

 She then lost her balance and fell down four or five steps, leaving her with significant injuries and badly shaken.

 Mrs McAllister sued the arena's owners, Odyssey Trust Ltd, and stewarding company Eventsec.

 She claimed the steps were insufficiently illuminated, and that the steward was not properly trained and failed to remain and illuminate the edge of the step.

 The defendants denied any breach of their duty of care or negligence.

 Mr Justice Horner praised the plaintiff for giving straightforward and frank evidence.

 But he pointed out how she had successfully descended 20 steps while holding her son's hand.

 The most likely cause of the accident was that she mistakenly placed her foot on or over the edge of a step and lost her balance, the judge said.

 Refusing to accept the arena was so dark that movement was unsafe, he held that lighting had been adequate.

 "During the course of this concert, like all the others before it, spectators made their way up and down the arterial gangways without difficulty when the concert was ongoing, not only to access their seats, but also toilets and bars," Mr Justice Horner said.

 "I conclude that if the plaintiff had looked where she was placing her foot, she would have been able to see the edge of the step and the accident would not have occurred."

 Ruling that there was no breach of a duty of care, he dismissed Mrs McAllister's claim but wished her a full recovery.

 "No one could fail to have the utmost sympathy for the plaintiff," he added.

 "Unfortunately... in this case the evidence, especially the contemporary evidence and the records of the use of the arena by hundreds of thousands of others, does not permit me to make a finding in her favour."

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