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Car crash passenger has damages award halved because she was negligent

A WOMAN passenger who was seriously injured in a car accident in which the driver was killed has had a €235,000 damages award more than halved by the High Court.

Jade Price was probably not wearing a seat belt and knew, or should have known the driver, 24-year-old mother of four Mary Connors, had consumed excessive alcohol before driving the new car collected by her just hours earlier, Mr Justice Iarfhlaith O'Neill found.

The car crashed into a tree on the Blessington Road, Tallaght, Dublin, in the early hours of May 15, 2010.

A further claim Ms Price must have known Ms Connors was not insured had not been proven, he ruled.

Given those findings, he found 55pc contributory negligence by Ms Price and reduced a €235,000 damages award by 55pc with the effect she will receive €100,579.

Ms Price, with an address in Tallaght, Dublin, had sued a representative of the estate of Mrs Connors, Blessington Road, Tallaght, and the Motor Insurers Bureau of Ireland (MIBI) over the accident.

An inquest jury recorded a verdict of death by misadventure in Ms Connors case last February. She died as a result of multiple injuries while a toxicology report showed a blood alcohol level of six times the legal limit. She also tested positive for cannabis, cocaine and sedatives.

In his judgment, Mr Justice O'Neill said the women appeared to have been returning to Tallaght from the Blue Gardenia pub on the Blessington road just after midnight when the car went out of control close to the Embankment pub in Tallaght.

Mrs Connors was tragically killed and Ms Price suffered serious injuries which left her with no memory of the accident itself and little memory of what occurred in the days and weeks before and after it, he said.

The representative of Mrs Connors estate did not defend the action but the MIBI alleged contributory negligence by Ms Price in allegedly allowing herself be carried, without wearing a seat belt, in an uninsured car driven by a person who had consumed excessive alcohol.

It was clear from evidence given to the inquest into the death of Mrs Connors the primary cause of the accident was the negligent and indeed reckless driving of Mrs Connors, the judge said. After driving at high speed, she struck another car before overtaking it, then lost control of her car which left the road and collided violently with a tree.

The judge found Ms Price was with Ms Connors on May 14 when she (Connors) concluded the purchase of the car. He ruled as "credible" Ms Price's evidence she assumed Mrs Connors was insured to drive. He dismissed the MIBI claim of contributory negligence on that issue.

Ms Price suffered serious injuries, including to her head, face and pelvis, he said. Despite surgery, she continued to have a sunken eye and a dropped eye for which no further surgery was contemplated, significant scarring to the pelvis and also probably suffered a mild degree of post-traumatic stress disorder.