Lifestyle & Belief

Australian granny sued by own family after baby crippled


An Australian mother holds her child in Melbourne, Australia, Aug. 6, 2011.


Scott Barbour

A grandmother woman who fell down stairs while clutching her 5-month-old granddaughter in Australia has been successfully sued by her own family.

The family of Molly Erica Hoffmann Boland claimed the negligence of her grandmother, the Reverend Hannalore Hoffmann, left the baby girl with "traumatic" head injuries, according to a report in the Fairfax media

Hoffmann was reportedly carrying Molly down stairs around 5:30 a.m. during a family vacation at a cottage of the News South Wales coast when she tripped and fell, leaving the little girl "severely disabled."

According to evidence heard in the NSW Supreme Court, Hoffmann offered to take Molly downstairs about 5.30am on January 25, 2006 after the baby woke and wouldn't settle.

She did not turn on the staircase lights so as not to disturb other sleeping family members.

She said she asked her daughter to a keep a light on in the upstairs bedroom before carefully descending the stairs, but that she stumbled and fell to the bottom, still grasping Molly.

Molly's parents Jason Boland and Susan Hoffmann, sued her for failing to take reasonable care.

Justice Robert Shallcross Hulme concluded in their favor, saying he was unpersuaded that parents, and other close relatives, "have no legal duty to exercise reasonable care when they undertake physical actions involving their children," NineMSN reported.

"Did Reverend Hoffmann exercise such care in this case? In my view she did not. I accept that she thought she was being careful. I accept that often babies are attended to in the middle of the night and in order that other members of a household are not disturbed, without lights being turned on.

"Nevertheless, when regard is had to the totality of circumstances including where Reverend Hoffmann walked and the absence of reasonable illumination, I am persuaded that she did not take that reasonable care."

Hoffmann had made a cross-claim against the owner of the vacation rental, as well as a building designer and others involved in the design and constructions of the stairs.

However, Justice Hulme dismissed the claims against everyone except the grandmother, whom he found primarily responsible for the girl's injury.

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