Family's personal injuries claim totalling €420k dismissed after judge rules there 'was no accident'
In a multiple damages claim for personal injuries totalling €420,000, a judge has held that a piece of plastic from a people carrier had been planted on a lorry to suggest there had been an impact between the two vehicles.
Judge Terence O’Sullivan said in the Circuit Civil Court that there had been troubling aspects in a case in which Co Tyrone man Tom McDonagh had, with six of his extended family, sued a Dublin lorry owner for damages of up to €60,000 each.
Of the seven cases before his court Judge O’Sullivan decided to try that of Tom McDonagh senior first to decide on the liability issues attaching to all of them. The judge threw out McDonagh’s claim which meant the six other claims collapsed with it and were dismissed.
Barrister Tom Clarke, who appeared with Jennifer O’Riada of O’Riada Solicitors, Celbridge, Co Kildare, on behalf of lorry owner Silvio Rabbitte and Sons, Ballycoolin, Blanchardstown, Dublin, pursued a forensic cross-examination challenge against McDonagh’s allegations including the injuries he claimed to have suffered in the accident.
Mr Clarke had put it to McDonagh that the piece of plastic he referred to was not embedded in the lorry and had only been sitting on the back of the truck. He said it would have been ridiculous to suggest it could have remained there for several miles during which McDonagh claimed he had been flashing lights in a bid to attract the lorry driver’s attention.
McDonagh claimed that in July 2013 his seven seater utility vehicle had been hit from the side by the truck on the M1 Motorway and alleged the lorry had damaged the wing mirror and fly window of the vehicle carrying himself and six relatives. He said he had followed the lorry into the Port Tunnel until it stopped.
Claims had been brought by Tom (senior), Tom (junior), Owen, Mary, Mary Theresa and Rebecca McDonagh and also by an in-law David Mongan. Addresses for the McDonagh family members were given as Innishmere Gardens, Coalisland, Co Tyrone. Mongan had an address in Co Kildare. All of them had sought damages to an upper limit of €60,000 each but none of them, apart from Tom McDonagh, had been allowed to prosecute their claims from the witness box or elaborate on alleged injuries.
McDonagh (43) told the court that when he eventually got the lorry driver to stop he had spoken to him at the front of the vehicle and had then brought him to the rear of the truck where they found the piece of plastic allegedly from his family carrier. He said there was also paint from his vehicle on the truck but a garda, who investigated the accident, told the court there was no paint marks to be seen.
McDonagh also claimed that on the day following the accident he and his family had been treated at the Accident and Emergency Unit of Drogheda Hospital. He stated he had suffered neck and lower back injuries and was challenged by Mr Clarke on a discrepancy between what he had told the court and what appeared in hospital records.
Judge O’Sullivan, on deciding to throw out McDonagh’s claim and dismiss the remainder of the cases, said he had found Mr McDonagh an unimpressive witness and the court had concluded there was no impact and no accident had occurred.
The judge was satisfied that the piece of plastic referred to in evidence had been planted by one of the claimants at the back of the lorry after it had been stopped and while Mr McDonagh had engaged the lorry driver in conversation at the front. It had been placed there by one of them for the purpose of advancing their claims, Judge O’Sullivan said.
Judge O’Sullivan accepted the lorry had at no stage wandered into McDonagh’s traffic lane and awarded costs against all adult members of the family, who had brought unsuccessful claims, in favour of Silvio Rabbitte and Sons. He said there had been no accident.