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Buachaill, Barrister
Category: Republic of Ireland Law
Satisfied Customers: 11229
Experience:  Barrister 17 years experience
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I have a company who sells chairs to wedding venues. In a

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I have a company who sells chairs to wedding venues. In a venue in the Republic of Ireland to Whom we sold chairs it is alleged that a 74 year old chap who weighs 21 and a half stone was attending a wedding fell from one of the said chairs and sustained an injury to his thumb for which he received hospital treatment. We were contacted by this chaps solicitors so I instructed a lawyer here in the UK to make it clear that we accept no responsibility as the chair had been in use for some considerable time at the venue and we would have no idea as to whether it had been misused at some point. The chap has now referred the situation to PIAB in Ireland and is trying to hold us as a company and the venue responsible for his alleged injuries. The venue have public liability, we as a company unfortunately don't have product liability so we're on our own here. Any advise please?

Hello, and thank you for your question. I am your Expert and I will provide the answer you require.

1. Dear *****, the first two things you need to realise is that firstly, if this gentleman who hurt his thumb, like Tom Thumb, the mythical cartoon figure, is that they must prove 'fault' to succeed in a claim for personal injury against you. Secondly, the succeed on the basis of your product, they must show it is 'defective' under the Product liability Directive. So, you need to realise that this gentleman has an uphill struggle showing either of these two requirements when he was at a wedding and there was drink involved. PIAB is only for cases where liability is admitted. Where, as here, liability will be in issue, the case will go to a hearing. The only reason it won't go to a hearing is if the public liability insurer for the venue decides to pay out to get rid of the case. This I very much doubt!

2. You also need to realise there is a claim culture among people in Ireland where a claim is made once a solicitor can be obtained to take a 'no foal, no fee' action. The culture is different in Ireland when it comes to getting compensation, to that in the UK, where claims pay much less and legal criteria are applied more stringently.

3. I would advise you to strongly resist the proceedings. The crunch will come when this claimants solicitor wants money to take the case to court. At that point, the Tom Thumb will have to put his hand in his pocket to litigate the issue and it is at this point that many cases fall away. In Ireland, solicitors are happy to issue legal proceedings, but none will run with a case to trial unless they are assured of getting some money out of it. Irish solicitors don't pursue frolics on the part of their client.

4. You should also realise the target, or mark, here for Tom Thumb is the venue, as they have insurance. It will have been the barrister who will have advised to include you as makers of the chair, in a 'belt and braces' approach so the venue don't argue that the chair was defective. So, you need to see the aim of Tom Thumb taking the case.

5. Please Rate or Accept the answer as unless you do so your Expert will not receive payment from the website for answering your question.

Customer: replied 6 months ago.
Many thanks for this. We actually import the chairs from China and have sold around 20,000 of these in the last 6 years with no previous problems so it’s a bit annoying. What would be my next best move please? Could you assist with this off of this platform?

6. This platform is limited as it is purely a Question and Answer forum for information purposes. It does not purport to give legal advice or provide representation to litigants. However, you should effectively use your English solicitor to issue denials to this Tom Thumb and his solicitor. Additionally, you should get a doctor to examine him to assess his injuries to his thumb. They might not be consistent with your chair being defective or a chair causing his injuries. It is more likely it occurred due to horseplay. For the actual hearing in Ireland, you can get your English solicitor to either attend or get an Irish agent who is a local to attend and issue denials. Someone will also have to attend on your part and give expert evidence. So, you will have to get your Expert to examine the chair this Tom Thumb fell off and provide a report.

Customer: replied 6 months ago.
Could I just clarify who we issue the denials to please? My English solicitor has advised to let an Irish solicitor to take things over from here as we have already had all of the paperwork and medic reports from the PIAB. I certainly don't want to pay them 600 euros to give them the priverlage of forming an opinion on this. I'm just a bit unclear as to whom we issue the denials.

7. Essentially, your case will get pleaded if you don't accept the PIAB amount or don't accept liability. Then, your solicitor - whether Irish or English - will enter a Defence to deny liability and put the Plaintiff Tom Thumb on proof. This is what you can your 'denials'. In this regard, Irish procedure is the same as English procedure. However, if your English solicitor is not clear on the irish procedure then an Irish solicitor would be more appropriate.

Customer: replied 6 months ago.
I'm nearly finished now (I know I'm making you earn your small fee :)
If this did go to court (assuming that if they go after us they will have to go down the product liability route) ..where would it go to England or Ireland? The product was sold under England Ts&Cs and delivered to ireland from England

8. This case will go to court in Ireland because that is where the accident happened and that is where proceedings have been issued. There will be no possibility of getting it transferred to England.

Customer: replied 5 months ago.
I can see what you are saying but I'm still a bit confused? If Tom Thumb would have to attempt to sue us under product liability.
We sell our goods based upon the law of UK which is all clearly detailed on our website.
Would the not mean as the product was sold from the UK under UK law that any car would have to be heard in a UK court?Just as a random intervention...when I purchase these chairs from China i do not sign any agreement to waive the "rights of recourse". Cold I not refer Mr Thumb to the manufacturer in China ?
Customer: replied 5 months ago.
case not car

9. If you are 'confused', then you can ask for a second Opinion on this website, if you are not happy with the advice, or else, you should ask the solicitors whom you already have employed on the case. You should also know, as a matter of common sense, that if you sell into a country, such as Ireland, you are liable to be sued there as it is there any damage will occur. Ultimately, your remedy if you don't want to get sued in a country is not to sell there.

10. Finally, there is nothing to prevent you joining the manufacturer in china to the case. Your solicitors should already have told you that.

Buachaill and 2 other Republic of Ireland Law Specialists are ready to help you
Customer: replied 5 months ago.
Many thanks for all of your help with this, it's given me a good grounding and understanding. I'll now go forth and hopefully find a good solicitor in Ireland and try to get this cleared up. Thanks again.