Teen injured in crash that killed friend awarded €100,000 damages
A TEENAGE passenger injured when a car driven by a 17-year-old friend crashed into a parked lorry during a "hair-raising" incident, is to receive €100,000 in High Court damages.
The driver, John Williams, had only got the car two weeks before as a present from his parents but lost his life in the crash at Drumkeerin village, Co Leitrim, five years ago.
Mr Justice Michael Moriarty said the court could not ignore that the accident was an "appalling tragedy" when John, of Derrylustia, Drumkeerin died.
The accident occurred on December 23, 2008, as five teenagers in two cars went for a "spin" outside the village of Drumkeerin.
Leah McVeigh, who was 16 at the time, was a passenger in John Williams's car and was injured when it went out of control.
Through her mother, Ethel McVeigh, of Tawneylea, Drumkeerin, she sued the dead man's insurance company, Quinn Direct, and the driver of another car which was allegedly driving dangerously before the accident.
That driver, Darragh Flynn (18 at the time), of Mountain View, Cartron, Lough Allen, Co Roscommon, denied the claim.
The case was settled for €100,000 and was before the High Court on the issue of who was liable for the damages. It was claimed the collision was caused by the negligence and breach of duty of the late Mr Williams and/or Mr Flynn.
It was claimed the two drivers were driving in a careless and dangerous manner and at excessive speed.
Ms McVeigh suffered a head injury and fracture of the left clavicle and post-traumatic stress disorder as a result of the accident.
Mr Flynn (now 23) denied the claims and said his driving did not play any part in the cause of the accident.
He claimed liability lay with the late Mr Williams. The insurance company denied the claims.
Mr Justice Moriarty said he found the evidence of Mr Flynn and of a male passenger in his car to be self-serving.
In contrast, the judge said, Fern Skelton (also 16 at the time), who was a passenger in Mr Flynn's car, was extremely upset over the tragic demise of a friend.
The young woman, he said, was firm in stating an inherently dangerous racing operation had been discussed.
The judge said Mr Flynn, who was the more experienced driver, was entirely privy to that discussion to embark on "this hair-raising process".
Unfortunately, the judge said, the deceased made a particularly dangerous fast overtaking and as he approached went over the grass verge and out of control, crashing into the parked lorry with a terrifying force.
Finding negligence to the degree of 22.5pc against Darragh Flynn, Mr Justice Moriarty said he was liable to pay €22,500 of the damages, with the insurance company liable for the balance of €77,500.
In evidence, Fern Skelton said during the three-mile journey each vehicle had overtaken each other.
She said she was surprised they were being overtaken by John Williams as they came in to Drumkeerin and she had waved to Leah McVeigh.
Cross-examined by counsel for the insurance company, Ms Skelton agreed Mr Williams overtook the car as he was trying to win a race.