Pensioner wins €17k over 'fire hazard' car claim
A pensioner has won a four-year legal battle with a second-hand car dealer after a 'fire-hazard' vehicle he bought broke down within weeks.
Letterkenny Circuit Civil Court heard how a Vauxhall Astra bought by retired bus driver John Patrick Gallagher was later declared unroadworthy by both gardaí and a specialist mechanic.
Mr Gallagher (72), from Dungloe, Co Donegal, sued Thomas Friel trading as Modern Motors, Mountain Top, Letterkenny, for a refund and damages.
He had paid €10,200 for the 2009-registered car in January 2012.
Mr Gallagher told Judge John Hannan that by March he noticed oil was leaking regularly from the vehicle.
He said he had left the car with Mr Friel for two days for repairs. "But when I got home I realised the car hadn't been repaired at all and was still leaking oil," said Mr Gallagher, who had been given a seven-month warranty by the dealer.
By May 2012, he said, the car was also leaking water and the brakes were 'warped'. Again, he claimed, the car had been left at the dealer to be fixed but it hadn't been.
He asked gardaí in Dungloe to inspect the vehicle and said he was told not to drive it.
An engineer's report found a series of defects on the imported car including that it had been 'clocked' with a 20,000 miles lower mileage recorded than that on an official UK record nine months earlier.
It also found that the car had been involved in a previous head-on collision and "the battery was unsecured and the wiring harness was wrapped in insulating tape creating a very real fire hazard".
There were a number of other defects in the car which the engineer suspected had been previously used as a company vehicle and was valued at just €500 four months after its purchase.
A solicitor for Mr Friel said his client was ill and didn't contest the case.
Asked by Judge Hannan what vehicle he was now driving, Mr Gallagher replied: "A much older one, a 2002 car which I had to buy for €1,800."
Judge Hannan ordered Mr Friel to pay Mr Gallagher €17,500 for the car and damages and said gardaí should investigate the clocking of the car.
"This is a case which will be of a great concern to every consumer and every motorist. Mr Gallagher has been put through the mill," said the judge.