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"Judge Rules in Favor of Farmer in Land Damage Lawsuit Against Railway Company" |

“Judge Rules in Favor of Farmer in Land Damage Lawsuit Against Railway Company”

The Quarter Sessions resumed under the jurisdiction of Judge Adams on Monday. William Kyan, a farmer from Meelick, filed a lawsuit against the Great Southern and Western Railway Company, seeking £30 in damages for harm caused to his land, meadow, and coops due to the defendants’ negligence and breach of statutory duty. M.C. Doyle represented the plaintiff, instructed by Mr J. Dundon, while Mr E. Phelps represented the defendants, instructed by Mr B. Barrington, solicitor.

Mr Doyle argued that according to Section 68 of the 5th Victoria, the railway company was obligated to construct and maintain embankments along the railway line for the benefit of adjacent landowners. The company had failed to fulfill this duty, as a breach in the embankment allowed a stream beneath the railway bridge to flood the plaintiff’s land. Mr O’Malley, representing the plaintiff, presented maps and other evidence, highlighting the loss of several acres of meadow grass due to the flooding. Mr James Frost testified to the existence of a breach in the embankment. When questioned by Mr Phelps, he mentioned the presence of an “overshot” above the bridge designed to divert overflow into a watercourse. The stream, on this particular occasion, reached an abnormal height of 6 feet 4 inches. In response to the judge’s inquiry, Mr Frost stated that if the stream below the bridge had been properly cleaned, the water would not have risen to such a level. During the dry season, the water depth was typically only about six inches. Mr Frost also noted that certain works carried out by the railway company in 1900 had exacerbated the preexisting defects rather than remedying them.

Mr Thomas Nix provided evidence regarding the flooding, explaining that his own lands were also affected. When asked by the judge why he hadn’t taken legal action, Mr Nix replied that this case was intended as a test case. His Honor inquired about the cause of the flooding, whether it was due to the stream’s dirty condition or the breach in the embankment. Mr Nix attributed it to the defective bank, as there was a leakage that caused the breach. James White and James Collins were examined, with the latter stating he was unaware of any dispute between the agents of the Marquis of Lansdowne and the Marquis of Cunningham regarding the stream’s cleaning.

For the defence, Mr Roberts, one of the company’s engineers, was called to the stand. He explained that in 1900, a breach occurred in the embankment outside the railway boundary. To rectify the issue, the embankment was faced with stone for added security. He stated that no complaints had been received about the state of the area. Mr Roberts clarified that the recent breach had no connection to the breach that occurred in 1900. He inspected the stream from a point below the railway boundary down to Lansdowne and found it choked with weeds throughout. As an engineer, he believed that due to the obstructed condition of the stream, the water couldn’t properly drain, resulting in the breach. He also mentioned witnessing the Marquis of Cunningham’s men cleaning the river at the second breach. Thomas Moore, a witness, testified that he observed the bank being washed away by the flood. The breach occurred approximately 25 yards below the company’s premises. He claimed that he had never seen a larger flood in this stream, which was poorly maintained and choked with weeds below the bridge. Water was flowing over the embankment when the breach occurred near the bridge. In response to the judge’s query, Mr V. Pery, the railway engineering superintendent, stated that the watercourses were not kept clean by the landlord.

Mr Doyle argued that the railway company was obligated to prevent such flooding at all times and, if necessary, compel the landlords to clear the stream. Mr Phelps countered by stating that the stream was not intended for the benefit of the lands. It was a natural watercourse that existed before the railway company constructed a bridge over it.

His Lordship considered the case to be highly significant for all parties involved. He believed that the railway company was liable under both statutory obligation and common law to maintain the stream’s banks in a manner that would prevent flooding of neighboring lands. Consequently, he ruled in favor of the plaintiff, awarding £40 in damages plus costs.

Additionally, in the case of Cusack v. Watt, His Lordship intended to award Mr Cusack £15 for himself, but he had not included the cost of medical attendance. He decided to add £3 to cover expenses, with notice to be given to the other party.

Limerick Echo – Tuesday 12 January 1904

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