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Wednesday 14 November 2018

Tractor driver who crashed with load of silage had ‘a lapse of concentration’

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Court Reporter

A judge has ruled against the driver of a tractor with a load of silage who was involved in a crash with a car.

Waters Agricultural Contractors, Buttevant, Co Cork took the case against Brendan O’Neill, of Legane, Effin, Co Limerick who responded with a counterclaim.

Rebecca Treacy BL, for Waters Agricultural Contractors, said the road traffic accident occurred on the road from Effin to Charleville on August 26, 2017.

“The claimant was driving a New Holland tractor with a silage trailer. The respondent (Brendan O'Neill) was driving a car. They were both travelling in the same direction. Sean Palmer, an employee of Waters Agricultural Contractors, was driving the tractor,” outlined Ms Treacy to Kilmallock Court.

She said figures of €1,674.44 for the claimant’s tractor damage and €7,435.83 for the respondent’s car damage had been agreed.

Mr Palmer took the stand and said the accident occurred around 11.30am / noon. He said he had been driving tractors for 10 years and was familiar with the road.

Ms Treacy asked Mr Palmer what occurred.

“I saw a vehicle in my rearview mirror. He came up on my right hand side. He was driving on the grass verge. I swerved to the left, braked and stopped to avoid impact with the vehicle. The vehicle hit the front wheel of my tractor. He came in on top of me,” said Mr Palmer.

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Ms Treacy handed in a photo of tyre marks on the left grass margin.

Mr Palmer said these were made by his silage trailer when he swerved to the left.

Roger Cross BL, representing the respondent Brendan O’Neill, said the accident occurred at 2.45pm / 3pm.

Mr Cross put it to Mr Palmer that he had pulled in to an entrance to let a tractor coming in the opposite direction pass him.

“No,” said Mr Palmer.

Mr Cross said his client will say Mr Palmer then veered out in to the middle of the road and crashed in to Mr O’Neill’s vehicle.

Mr Palmer denied this.

Denis McCarthy, engineer, who attended the location of the accident was called by Ms Treacy.

He said there was “no physical evidence” to support the contention that Mr Palmer veered to the right. Mr McCarthy said the tyre marks made by the trailer in the verge was “physical evidence” of Mr Pamer veering to the left.

The engineer measured the road and the width of the vehicles. Mr McCarthy said there was “ample room” for the vehicle to overtake the tractor.

Mr O’Neill took the stand and said he was travelling to Limerick with his wife and two children.

“We were behind a tractor and trailer. He pulled over in to a house entrance to leave an oncoming tractor pass by. I don’t think he came to a complete stop.

“After the oncoming tractor passed I put on my indicators to overtake. The tractor pulled back in to the middle of the road. I was near the front of the tractor. His front right wheel came in to contact with my left front wing. At this point he saw us and then he braked,” said Mr O’Neill.

Under cross examination, Ms Treacy said there was no oncoming tractor.

“There was,” said Mr O’Neill.

Ms Treacy said Mr Palmer didn’t pull in.

“He did,” said Mr O’Neill.

Ms Treacy asked why he didn’t stop?

“I was afraid I would go over the hedge. It’s a big vehicle. It was either get past it or get hit,” said Mr O’Neill.

Ms Treacy said her client was on the left hand side of the road, braked and veered left so how did the collision occur?

“He pulled out in to the middle of the road. His wheel clipped us. He pulled left at that point,” said Mr O’Neill.

Ms Treacy asked why he drove on the grass verge when there was ample room to pass?

“He had pulled out. I certainly wouldn’t have been driving on the verge with my kids in the car. It was to avoid a collision,” said Mr O’Neill.

Judge Marian O’Leary said the evidence on both sides was “contradictory”.

“The evidence of Mr McCarthy was that there was sufficient space but Mr O’Neill drove on the grass margin,” said Judge O’Leary.

The judge found that Mr Palmer, who drove the tractor, had a “momentary lapse of concentration”.

“I dismiss the plaintiff’s case,” said Judge O’Leary, who found in favour of the counter claimant, Mr O’Neill. The judge directed Waters Agricultural Contractors pay the respondent compensation of €7,435.83 plus legal costs.

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