Travel agency denies ceiling fan that hit two-year-old’s head was ‘hazardously low’

A travel agency has denied that a ceiling fan in a Spanish aparthotel room that struck a man’s two-year-old son as he picked him up to comfort him was set at a hazardously low level, the High Court has heard.

Kevin Heeney, of Corofin House, Clare Village, Malahide Road, Dublin, last April lost an action in the Circuit Court against travel firm Sunway Travel Ltd, trading as Sunway Holidays, over the accident in the aparthotel which he claimed disrupted a family holiday to Tenerife in August 2015.

The Circuit Court found it was an accident for which no one could be held responsible.

Mr Heeney appealed to the High Court. Following a hearing on the case in the High Court on Tuesday, Mr Justice Cian Ferriter reserved his decision.

The court heard that Mr Heeney’s son Mason, who was going on three at the time of the incident, was crying in the room and Mr Heeney, who is 6ft 3in in height, picked the boy up to comfort him when the metal blade of the fan, which was about 6ft 9.5in from the floor, struck the boy behind his ear.

Mr Heeney, who previously hit his hand off the fan as he was taking his T-shirt off, twice brought the matter of what he said was the hazard of the low-level fan to the attention of the aparthotel management and sought to be moved , but he was told nothing was available, the court heard.

Mr Heeney sued for the €3,596 costs of the holiday and on behalf of his son for the injury he suffered. Mr Heeney claimed the entire holiday was disrupted by the incident due to having to keep a close eye on the boy for the rest of the holiday and having to bring him back to hospital to have stitches behind his ear taken out.

Day of the incident

Cormac MacNamara SC, for Mr Heeney, said his client, his wife and two sons traveled to a Canary Islands resort on August 8th, 2015. On August 11th, having brought concern about the fan to the attention of the aparthotel management on two previous days , Mr Heeney was preparing to go down to the swimming pool when Mason became slightly agitated.

He picked the boy up to console him when the fan blade hit Mason’s head, causing immediate bleeding. The family rushed to the aparthotel reception and asked that an ambulance be called. Mr Heeney was told it would be quicker to take him to the hospital by taxi.

They took a taxi to a local doctor, who bandaged the boy’s head and arranged for an ambulance to take him to the hospital, where he received three sutures to the back of his ear.

When they returned to the aparthotel, Mr Heeney spoke to the manager, who expressed surprise that he had not been moved as there was alternative accommodation available, counsel said. The family were moved the next day to air-conditioned accommodation.

Mr Heeney told the court he had remarked to his wife on their first hour at their initial accommodation that the fan was a bit low.

Cross-examination

Under cross-examination by Elaine Morgan SC, for Sunway, Mr Heeney disagreed it was unforeseeable that someone would pick up the child the way he did, particularly when Mr Heeney was conscious of the fan, having made complaints about it.

“There was only one cause of this accident and it was you,” counsel said. Mr Heeney replied that the family had asked to be moved.

Conor Murphy, an engineer called by the Heeney side, said he had found no Irish or Spanish standards for fan heights, while US standards say they should be at least 10ft. Some manufacturers say they can be put as low as 7ft, he said.

He believed the fan was definitely a hazard because this was a moving object and hitting it could lead to serious consequences.

Mr Justice Ferriter said he hoped to give his decision as soon as possible.

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