Woman loses damages claim after seagull attack

Picture: JP
Picture: JP
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A WOMAN hurt in a terror attack by a swooping gull has lost her bid for £7000 damages.

Project officer Cathie Kelly, 59, told a court how she fell as she tried to make it back to the safety of her office following the attack.

She sued the owners of the building - an old Victorian school in Greenock - claiming they did not take sufficient care for her safety.

The Court of Session in Edinburgh heard how a nearby rubbish dump was a magnet for gulls which nested on the roof of the old school and became aggressive when they had chicks.

Previously there had been patrols using owls and hawks to ward of seagulls however these, the court heard, had now stopped.

In a written ruling issued today Judge Arthurson said: “I was particularly impressed with the evidence and demeanour of Mrs Kelly as she described the incident leading to her fall on the steps of the LBC.

“This must have been truly terrifying for her.”

But, the judge said, the crucial question was whether the attacking gull came from the LBC building.

Mrs Kelly was honest enough to say she didn’t know and other witnesses said they had seen nesting gulls on other buildings.

Experts on gull behaviour told the court that the birds were “free wild creatures” protecting their young - but where a chick was found was no indication as to where it had come from.

Bristol-based consultant Peter Rock, 62, said “They are not flying yobs as you see in the media. They do not do this lightly,” said Mr Rock.

Judge Arthurson also ruled that the landlords of the building, Riverside Inverclyde (Property Holdings Ltd) had carried out their responsibilities.

Mrs Kelly told how she stopped for lunch on June 17 2010 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 she had no food at the time and wondered why the squawking gull was attacking her.

“I realized I would never get to the van so I had to get back into the building for safety.”

Mrs Kelly continued: “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 crouching Mrs Kelly, wearing a pair of flat black loafers, turned as she tried to regain the safety of the building but 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.”

Later that afternoon someone noticed her crying and gave her a paracetamol but she was still in pain and had to go home early.

Her daughter took her to hospital that evening.

Court papers describe how the incident left Mrs Kelly “shaken and distressed.” She was away from her work with CVS Inverclyde for two weeks then took to carrying an umbrella to protect her as she made her way too and from her office.

Pains in her chest and thigh made sitting at a computer difficult and her husband and daughter had to step in to help with shopping, cooking and other household tasks.

For weeks she could only sleep upright and with the help of painkillers.

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.

Mrs Kelly raised a pounds 30,000 damages action. The portion of that which she would get if she proved the landlords were at fault had been agreed before the court hearing.

“An interesting and rather unusual case,” concluded the judge.