Tuesday 16 January 2018

Case of schoolgirl (12) suing parents after crash sees liability issue settled

24/10/2012Mary Carberry, of Newtownforbes, Co. Longford, leaving court yesterday(Wed) after a settlement in High Court action.Pic: Collins Courts
24/10/2012Mary Carberry, of Newtownforbes, Co. Longford, leaving court yesterday(Wed) after a settlement in High Court action.Pic: Collins Courts

Tim Healy

A SCHOOLGIRL'S action for damages over injuries sustained in a car crash, in which her sister and friend were killed, is to now go ahead only against an organisation which compensates victims of uninsured drivers.

This follows a settlement of the liability issue in the case of Faith Varden Carberry (12).

She was seriously injured when her mother, who was uninsured and banned from driving, crashed into a clay embankment outside Edgeworthstown, Co Longford in November 2007.

Faith was seven years of age at the time of the crash in which her six-year-old sister Ava and her friend Michaela Logan were killed, while another child was injured.

She had brought the High Court case against her mother Mary Carberry (36), as the uninsured driver of the car, and her father Thomas Varden, who owned the vehicle.

Ms Carberry, who was a chronic alcoholic, got so drunk on the day of the crash she "blacked out" and ploughed into a mud embankment on a disused road outside Edgeworthstown. She was also banned from driving at the time because of a previous accident.

Mr Varden, who owned the vehicle, insisted he did not want her to drive it. He had never lived with Ms Carberry and had raised concerns about the care of his daughters with social services in the months leading up to the crash, the court heard.

The action, which was brought on Faith's behalf by her grandfather Anthony Carberry, began on Tuesday against the parents and the Motor Insurer's Bureau of Ireland (MIBI), which was set up by the government and the insurance industry to compensate victims of accidents caused by uninsured drivers.

Judgment had already been obtained against Ms Carberry who was jailed for four years at another court over the accident.

Yesterday, Mr Justice Iarfhlaith O'Neill was asked to deal only with the question of liability as against Mr Varden and the MIBI.

Today, following talks, the judge was told the case is now only against the MIBI.

Mr Justice O'Neill, who will now only be dealing with an assessment of damages, adjourned the case for three weeks.

Faith, of Clonguish Court, Newtownforbes, Co Longford, had sued her father Thomas, aged in his early 70s, of Renville Village, Oranmore, Co Galway; her mother, Mary, of Newtownforbes, Co Longford; and the MIBI.

Faith was in a spinal cast for 10 weeks and suffered severe psychological trauma after her sister was killed.

She attended a child psychologist for three months after the crash.

In his evidence, Mr Varden, a Galway businessman, said he had never lived with Ms Carberry but he kept in contact with the children and provided accommodation for the children.

When Ms Carberry was banned from driving, the children had to walk one-and-a-half miles to school.

Ms Carberry, he said, put the children on the phone to him saying they were cold and wet. "It pulled at my heart strings," he said.

He added that Ms Carberry had been to Alcoholics Anonymous and seemed to be turning over a new leaf. He bought a car for €14,000 but, as she was banned from driving, somebody else would have to drive it.

An insurance policy was taken out by Ms Carberry but it did not cover her to drive.

On the night of the crash, he got a phone call from Ms Carberry saying Ava was dead and she thought Faith was dead too.

"She said, 'if I had a gun I would shoot myself'. I said, if I had a gun I would do it for you myself," he said.

"I thought Faith was dying, but she recognised my voice and I was delighted.

"I did not see Mary Carberry again until Ava's funeral. I was angry. I am still angry.

"No way would I have given the car to her if I thought she was going to use it that way. I trusted her."

Mr Varden also told the court that between 2003 and 2007 he, along with Ms Carberry's parents, had contacted social services about the children.

He said he had a meeting with social workers a few months before the accident to voice his fears but nothing was done.

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