Friday 18 October 2019

Facebook pictures of 'fine human specimen of fitness' collapses woman's €60,000 damages claim

Rita Milinovic leaving court yesterday (Wed.)
Rita Milinovic leaving court yesterday (Wed.)

Ray Managh

Facebook pictures, posted on line by “a very fine human specimen of fitness,” demolished a woman’s €60,000 damages claim in the Circuit Civil Court today for personal injuries.

A 29-year-old waitress was told by a judge that she had not been honest with the court in a case that highlighted the dangers of what some people depict and say about themselves on the social networking website.

Rita Milinovic, a Lithuanian who has been living in Ireland for almost 10 years, “winced in agony” in the witness box as she related how her life had been dramatically changed by what was described as a minor collision in a car park.

Her case collapsed when barrister Shane English brought her through a collection of pictures which the stunning beauty had posted of herself on Facebook since the accident.

She was unaware that Mr English and Newmans Allianz solicitors, the legal team acting for defending van driver Paul Ferris and O’Dwyer Property Management Limited, had down-loaded them from her Facebook page.

They included a picture of her after having climbed to the top of Bray Head as well as bikini-clad shots of her posing at international body sculpture competitions and others exercising in a gym since the accident.

Rita Milinovic
Rita Milinovic

Milinovic, of Belfry Hall, Citywest, Dublin, told the court she had been driving her boyfriend’s car on April 5 last year, looking for a space in a car park, when Ferris, a driver for O’Dwyer Property Management , Sandyford Industrial Estate, had reversed into her.

She claimed she had suffered severe personal injuries and had to give up her waitressing work for six months before having to abandon her work altogether because she had been in such pain she could not even carry plates.

Milinovic told Mr English in cross-examination she had never been a member of a gym before the barrister produced pictures and evidence of her current membership of and exercising in a gym in Dublin and another in Lithuania. She said she swam at the Dublin gym to help her back.

Mr English then presented her with pictures of herself bikini clad at competitions in Lithuania, Latvia and Denmark.  She said she had posed in photo shoots for a magazine.

“You have been wincing in agony in the witness box while giving your evidence and denied on oath you were ever a member of a gym,” Mr English said.  “You have told us nothing about your sports hobbies until your own Face Book pictures were presented to the court.”

“Your case from beginning to end is a lie,” Mr English said. “You are prepared to sue the defendants for damages and six months salary because you were incapable of working.”

When Mr English asked the court to dismiss her case before any further evidence was allowed, Circuit Court President, Mr Justice Raymond Groarke, said the case was “worrying.”

He said Ms Milinovic had presented a case of very serious injuries to her neck, shoulders and back and unable to work “in any shape or form” yet she had been photographed after walking to the top of Bray Head shortly after the accident.

“Having read the medical reports and listening to the plaintiff’s evidence the court is far from impressed by the veracity of her account of her injuries,” Judge Groarke said.

She had been, at the very least, evasive in respect of her membership of a gym and extremely evasive as regards what form of exercise she had engaged in.

“It is not the type of veracity a judge expects,” Judge Groarke said.  “Walking to the top of Bray Head six weeks after the accident is, with respect, not what somebody who is quite as disabled as Ms Milinovic seems to have been would be doing.”

Judge Groarke said this raised a question mark over how deceitful Ms Milinovic had been with the court.

“Trying to be as politically correct as one can be in this situation it does not look like a person with such a fine physical physique as Ms Milinovic has could have been suffering a great deal of pain,” the judge said.

“It is perfectly obvious this is a very fit person who is not in any way physically limited in her life,” Judge Groarke said.

He accepted some of the pictures may have been of photo shoots but others showed her doing physical exercises --- exercises somebody with a bad back would certainly not be engaging in.  Her pictured activities did not correspond with the description she had given of herself since the accident.

“The person we see in these photographs is a very fine human specimen who is clearly in the best of physical condition and who has been working to get into that physical condition,” Judge Groarke said.

While she may have suffered some degree of injury in the accident it could not have been particularly serious and the law demanded of people coming to court that they must do so in total honesty.

Judge Groarke said all litigants must be honest with the court and failure to do so attracted the penalty of dismissal.   Ms Milinovic’s case was clearly one that attracted dismissal and an order for legal costs against her.

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