Chris Ison

Woman left paraplegic after staircase fall loses court case

A WOMAN who fell down a flight of stairs after having a celebratory drink, for her birthday, and become a partial paraplegic and sued her landlords for damages has had her claim denied by the Supreme Court of Queensland.

Catriona McGuiness Sheehy shortly after midnight on March 14, 2007, fell down a flight of stairs in the unit she rented and where she lived.

Tragically she was rendered a partial paraplegic as a result of the injuries sustained in the fall.

She subsequently sought damages against the owners of the unit Andrew Colin Hobbs and his wife Janine Maree Hobbs who were her then landlords, alleging a breach of the duties owed to her pursuant to the Residential Tenancies Act 1994 (Qld), under her tenancy agreement, and at common law.

The plaintiff called an engineer Mr Kahler with great experience and expertise in ergonomic and safety matters while the Hobbs's (defendants) called evidence from a Mr Casey regarding the slip resistance characteristics of carpet and a Mr Catchpole who is a building inspector.

Subject to one matter, it was common ground the stairway involved in the incident substantially complied with the minimum requirements of the Building Code.

On March 13, 2007, the plaintiff (Ms McGuinness Sheehy) arrived home from work at 5.30pm, showered, changed, had a glass of wine and then an evening meal with her son.

She sat down to watch television and fell asleep. She woke up, watched television for awhile and then noticed it was just past midnight. March 14 (2007) was her 51st birthday. She then went to the fridge, poured herself a glass of wine and "toasted herself" a happy birthday.

Her recollection is that she drank about half of what was in the glass and then threw the balance into the sink and went upstairs to her bedroom.

The fall occurred on a set of internal stairs leading from the lounge/kitchen area on the ground floor to the upstairs bedroom area of the unit.

After arriving at the top of the stairs she realised she had forgotten to bring with her a bottle of water she normally took with her when going to bed - she turned to go down the stairs and stepped down with her right foot on to the first step.

Her left foot was still on the landing.

Her right foot slipped - her left hand was then resting on the half wall next to the stairwell. It was too broad to hang on to.

Her recollection was that she tried to correct herself, overcorrected somehow, and then fell down the stairs. She ended up on the quarter landing at the bottom of the short flight of stairs.

A judgment was handed down on November 7, going against Ms McGuinness Sheehy who will now have a judgment for the defendants with costs.

A solicitor for the plaintiff, Connor O'Driscoll, said he had "no comment" after the case was awarded against his client.

Neither Catriona McGuinness Sheehy or Andrew Colin Hobbs and Janine Maree Hobbs could be contacted by The Bulletin for comment yesterday.


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