Thursday, March 13, 2014

Woman suing owner of building over seagull swoop injury

A woman who claims she was injured when a seagull swooped at her during her lunch-break is suing the owners of the building where she worked. Cathie Kelly said she stumbled on steps as she tried to escape the "terrifying" dive-bombing bird outside the Ladyburn business centre in Greenock. She has raised an action for damages at the Court of Session in Edinburgh. The court heard how a nearby rubbish dump was a magnet for gulls which nested on the old Victorian school building in Pottery Street. Judge Paul Arthurson QC was told of people dashing in and out of the building using umbrellas. Mrs Kelly, 59, from Glasgow, claimed there had previously been patrols using owls and hawks to try to get rid of the menace.

She said that she stopped for lunch on 17 June and planned to head for a nearby burger van to buy something to eat. She said it was impossible to see through the stained glass of the door as she went outside. "I walked out the door and I barely got to the bottom of the steps and this gull came for me at full speed, wings outstretched, coming right for my face," she said. "I realised I would never get to the van so I had to get back into the building for safety." Mrs Kelly said: "It was screaming at me. I was terrified. I thought it was going for my face. I couldn't look up to see it because it was right over my head and I really thought it was going to hurt me. I was shouting but it would not go away." The court heard how as Mrs Kelly turned to go back inside her left shoe came off and she stumbled onto the steps. "I was badly winded and I was in instant pain. It was very painful," she said.

Court papers said the incident left Mrs Kelly, who worked for CVS Inverclyde, "shaken and distressed". She was off work for two weeks then took to carrying an umbrella to protect her as she made her way to and from her office. Mrs Kelly said that towers beside the door were a favourite nesting site for gulls. Discussing the incident with colleagues, she learned that a chick had fallen from the nest on the day she was attacked. The paperwork she has submitted to the court stated: "Urban colonies of nesting gulls were a well-recognised phenomena in the vicinity of the building and the landfill site. Gulls consume a highly variable diet and they are predators, scavengers and kleptoparasitic in nature." Nesting gulls tend to be aggressive in response to predators and intruders and present "a serious risk of injury to people moving within their vicinity," her legal team has claimed.

Mrs Ann Walsh, manager with Enterprise Childcare, who also works in the Ladyburn business centre, said the gull problem had been going on for years. "I was attacked myself by gulls," she said. "I was poo-ed on as part of the attack." She said she had raised her concerns with the building's management. "You shouldn't have to be dodging seagulls when you come to work in the morning." Landlords Riverside Inverclyde (Property Holdings) denied liability. They are part of an organisation set up by the Scottish government, Scottish Enterprise and Inverclyde Council. They have claimed Mrs Kelly was at least partly to blame because she did not look where she was putting her feet. Mrs Kelly has raised a £30,000 damages action. The portion of that which she will receive if she proves the landlords were at fault has been agreed at £7,000.

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