A 73-year old west Clare farmer credits his fitness and his time in the boxing ring on how he survived being caught up in a “raging bull fight” at Kilrush mart seven years ago.
At Ennis Circuit Court, James Vincent Fitzpatrick told the court that but only for being “very fit” and his time in the boxing ring “I was a dead man”.
He said: “I don’t think anyone else would have gotten out of it alive. Only for I am the type of the man who would not give in – you have to kill me before I die.”
During his personal injury action against Clare Marts Limited And Clare Co-Operative Marts Limited, Mr Fitzpatrick broke down in the witness box as he recounted the bull fight at the loading area at Kilrush mart on October 7th 2015 during which he sustained a ‘crush’ injury to his right leg. Judge Francis Comerford presided over the case.
A farmer and a cattle hauler from Burrane, Killimer, Mr Fitzpatrick described how he was bringing a bull, bullock and a cow to his truck when another bull “came like a rocket” from a chute at the mart.
He said: “It was like a flash of lightning when this other bull came up from behind – unexpected. The bull roared and he tore and the bull I was driving turned and he whipped me right across. It is a miracle that I am here today.”
Mr Fitzpatrick said: “I was between the two bulls – they were big bulls.”
Counsel for Mr Fitzpatrick, Lorcan Connolly BL told the court that one bull weighed 995kgs with the second bull weighing 960kgs. Mr Fitzpatrick said: “The two bulls were ramming on both sides and only for I happened to spend time in the boxing ring years ago I didn’t get a fright – anyone else would have dropped down with the shock of it”.
Mr Fitzpatrick recounted his time in the boxing ring when “a handy fella hit me a belt when I was ready to go boxing… If you are not alert you are going to get killed but that day in the ring stood to me in the mart. It was the best thing”.
He added: “I was very athletic – I keep myself very fit – I go dancing every weekend – always at that stage”. Mr Fitzpatrick recalled how he was able to climb up on a gate and he said how one bull drove the other back “and his arse hit my leg”. He said: “The other bull jagged him and put him flying across the ring.”
He said: “The fight was raging between the two bulls. It was serious stuff”. Mr Fitzpatrick said that he was on top of the gate for eight or nine minutes.
He said: “It was cruel to the world’s end. It was savage. I was trying to hold onto the bar. The agony and the pain. It was frightening. I was lucky I didn’t get a heart attack or fall down and get killed.”
Breaking down in tears for a second time in the witness box, Mr Fitzpatrick said: “I still see a bull being lifted up by another bull and ramming it into the wall right alongside me.”
Mr Connolly said that it was Mr Fitzpatrick’s case that the mart was wholly negligent in releasing the bull as Mr Fitzpatrick loaded the three other animals onto his truck.
The mart denied liability but after Mr Fitzpatrick and other witnesses had completed their evidence, an offer was made to Mr Fitzpatrick after lunch and Mr Connolly was able to tell Judge Comerford that the case had been settled and it could be struck out with no order.
Speaking outside court after Mr Fitzpatrick said that he was “very happy” that the case had settled.
Solicitor for Mr Fitzpatrick, Patrick Moylan said: “Mr Fitzpatrick is delighted. He feels that he has been vindicated.”
He added: “The mart obviously put him to full proof of his case and he has come here and he proved his case as far as we are concerned and matters have settled and he is delighted with that.”
Outside court Mr Fitzpatrick said: “It was a long journey – my leg is still sore and I still dream of the bull. The fighting of the bulls was unreal.”
Earlier in evidence, Mr Fitzpatrick said that mart staff were able to help him down from the railings.
Mr Fitzpatrick said that he was in “severe pain all the time” for a number of days after the bull incident. He said: “The marks from that day are still on my leg but it is not as bad as it was.”
He said: “My wife Mary would help me bathe it in water and that would be done for 30 days in cold and hot water. I would put a sock on it in bed at night to keep it warm.”
Counsel for the mart, Emmet O’Brien BL put it to Mr Fitzpatrick: “We say contact was made by a bull with your leg but it was caused by your inability to close the gate in time.”
Mr Fitzpatrick denied this. Mart employee, Michael Clancy told the court that Mr Fitzpatrick said to him after the incident “My good man, it will take a lot more than that to put me down.”