Wednesday 22 May 2019

Doctor cleared of blame in pensioner's fatal car crash

Aoife Finneran

THE driver of a car that crashed resulting in the death of his wife and in the serious injury of a young girl has lost his claim of indemnity against his GP.

William Barr (81), of Middletown, Gweedore, Co Donegal, had claimed his GP Dr Anthony Delap was negligent in certifying him fit to drive two years before he was involved in the fatal car crash.

Yesterday, Mr Justice Iarfhlaith O'Neill ruled there had been no negligence or breach of duty on the part of the doctor.

Mr Barr was the driver of a car which crossed from its side of the road and crashed into an oncoming vehicle outside the village of Dunlewey, Gweedore, Co Donegal on May 27, 2008.

Mr Barr's wife, Maggie (83), was killed in the crash, and the backseat passenger in the other car, Noirin McGarvey, who was four at the time, suffered serious spinal injuries and is now confined to a wheelchair.

Noirin, now aged seven, brought proceedings through her father Ronan McGarvey, Lower Dore, Bunbeg, Co Donegal, against Mr Barr.

Earlier this year, the High Court approved a €4m settlement in favour of the young girl.

Mr Barr had denied liability for the accident and claimed an indemnity against his GP, Dr Anthony Delap, on grounds that he suffered a medical ailment immediately prior to the collision that caused him to lose control of his car.

He claimed there had been no negligence or breach of duty on his part because he contended the collision was an inevitable accident resulting from the occurrence of this medical ailment.

Mr Barr argued Dr Delap was negligent when he certified him fit to drive for a period of three years from July 2006. He also claimed Dr Delap was negligent in failing to advise him to stop driving at various stages between July 2006 and the date of the accident.

Yesterday, Mr Justice Iarfhlaith O'Neill rejected Mr Barr's claim. The judge noted that Mr Barr had been treated for a blood pressure condition by Dr Delap but in the days before the accident his blood pressure was very well controlled and his pulse rate was at an acceptable, predictable level.

In the weeks before he was certified fit to drive in July 2006, Mr Barr suffered from high blood pressure and had complained of symptoms including dizziness, light-headedness, staggering and nausea.

The judge found that Dr Delap had reasonably considered these symptoms were side effects of the blood pressure medication and there was no basis to decline to certify him fit to drive.

Mr Barr had also claimed that Mr Delap should have advised him to stop driving at various stages between July 17, 2006, and May 27, 2008.


In January 2007, Mr Barr had suffered a minor heart attack, and did not drive for a period of about six weeks afterwards, as is the norm for people recovering from a heart attack.

In December 2007, he suffered a 'syncope' episode, whereby he felt unwell and lost consciousness for about two minutes. Dr Delap discussed the issue of driving with Mr Barr following this episode and told him that if it happened again he would have to reconsider driving.

Mr Justice O'Neill said Dr Delap was entitled to conclude that the syncope episode was a result of medication and that, as he was generally in good health, advice to stop driving would have been inappropriate.

The judge also said the reality was that at the time of the crash Mr Barr was still a robust 77-year-old and was still fully active. In addition, he found that Mr Barr "was a fully competent, mature adult and was himself primarily responsible for ensuring that he himself could drive safely".

Irish Independent

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