Republic of Ireland Law
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Howard runs a thriving cafe in the city centre. Given the café’s prime location, it enjoys a huge amount of passing trade. On busy weekend days, Howard employs 6 staff to assist him in running the café (2 chefs and 4 waiting staff). Given its location, Howard gets many requests every day from non-customers to use the toilets in the café. He sees this as a natural part of running a café in a city centre location and has adopted a relaxed policy in relation to the use of the café’s toilets by non-customers. Howard wants to create a friendly atmosphere in the café and feels that a strict policy in relation to use of the toilets will only serve to damage the café’s reputation in the eyes of the public.
One Saturday morning, just before opening the café, Howard gets a call from 2 of his waiting staff to let him know that they cannot attend work that day. Howard decides he does not have the time to make phone calls to find replacements and resigns himself to the fact that he will have to get by with just 2 waiters for the day. By lunchtime, the café is filled to capacity and there are queues of people waiting for tables. Howard and the waiting staff are struggling to cope with the workload. Many of the tables are not being properly cleaned after use and a number of small food spillages on the floor have gone unnoticed by the staff in the chaos of the lunchtime rush. At approximately 2pm, a woman walked into the café and asked Howard if she could use the bathroom in the café. Howard (who was at the time bringing food from the kitchen to a table) directed the lady to the bathroom, which was at the other end of the café. On route to the bathroom, the woman slipped on a piece of butter which had been dropped on the floor some hours earlier, during the café’s breakfast sitting. The woman’s legs slid out from underneath her and she fell to the ground. Howard immediately called an ambulance and the woman was taken to hospital where she was told that she had dislocated her hip. One month later, Howard received a letter from the woman’s solicitor stating that she intended to sue him for compensation. Howard is not worried – he knows he did not have any contractual relationship with the woman as she was not a paying customer. He believes therefore that she has no right to sue him. Howard comes to you for advice. You believe that the woman may bring a claim in negligence.
Advise Howard on the whether or not you believe he may be held liable to pay compensation to the injured woman in the above case. Provide reasons for your answer.
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