Former professional boxer loses claim for damages against former Justice Minister Alan Shatter over minor collision
FORMER professional boxer Jim Rock has lost his claim for damages against ex-justice minister Alan Shatter following a collision between their cars on a road in south Dublin.
The 47-year-old sued the former Fine Gael politician at Dublin District Court for €1,800 after the accident involving his €50,000 Mercedes CLS and Shatter’s Saab at around midnight of December 2, 2015.
Rock, who boxed professionally from 1995 to 2009, did not seek personal injuries and his claim was for cost of car repairs and to rent a replacement vehicle while the work was being carried out.
Dublin District Court heard the two cars suffered minor minor scrapes and damages to paint work in the crash as they were both going slowly around a bend on Sussex Road.
Rock and Shatter accused one another of crossing into each other’s lane causing the collision. Rock was driving on the middle lane and Shatter’s Saab was on the right side lane.
Rock told he court he had beeped his horn and applied the brakes.
He said the politician was “obnoxious” after their cars came to a halt while Shatter said the plaintiff was “belligerent”.
His parliamentary assistant who was travelling with the former TD called the gardai, the court was told.
Dismissing the “hotly contested” case, Judge Anthony Halpin said there was very little common ground in their testimony and it was difficult to adjudicate.
Judge Halpin said the accident was a result of momentary inattentiveness but the evidence was not clear that Shatter was responsible.
Both men believed their version of evidence, he said.
Rock testified Shatter crossed into his lane causing scuffing and scrapes to the Mercedes while Shatter stated he had taken regularly used this route and was taking a corner slowly.
Rock told the court he told an insurance firm representative that had got the car fixed in January 2016 and his wife had paid.
He said in his claim that Shatter swerved suddenly and without warning and in evidence Rock told the court he beeped and applied the brakes.
He agreed in cross-examination with defence solicitor Jerry O’Reilly he had an invoice for work from a Dublin auto-repair firm but the car was fixed in February 2016 when his wife went on a trip to Belfast.
No receipt was available but his wife, who normally used the car, told the court she paid.
Rock had sent numerous emails to Shatter’s insurance firm. In one email, Rock wrote that Shatter was a former minister for justice and “probably knows every trick in the book to get away with this but I think his luck has run out, like when he had to resign”.
He also called Shatter a “very unpleasant man” in the same message.
Shatter’s parliamentary assistant Jane Lehane, who was in the front passenger seat, stated in court that she warned the former government minister that Rock’s car was going to hit them but the impact occurred before she could complete the sentence. She also said Rock was aggressive.
Mr Shatter stopped after about 20 feet away and the judge remarked that was eminently sensible to prevent a further collision.
Denying he had caused the accident, Shatter told the court Rock had been belligerent and he said he did not hear any car beeping before the collision. He said the amount of damages claimed was “so ridiculously small” compared to the time spent on the case, “but I think the truth is important”.
He said he did not cross into Rock’s path.
Judge Halpin said from looking at photo evidence he accepted the collision resulted in superficial damage.
Witness John English said he had been travelling in a taxi when he saw Shatter’s Saab move left and hit Rock’s car. In a statement he gave earlier he said the taxi was behind the Saab but in court he said it was behind Rock’s car.
He recognised Rock getting out of his car as he passed by but did not see who was in the Saab.
Mr English said the taxi driver told him it was the politician. He came forward months later and gave a statement to an insurance assessor.
Judge Halpin said he was not satisfied with this witness on a number of points.
He said both Rock and Shatter and their engineers agreed speed was not a factor.
He noted Shatter told the court he had not heard a horn beeping.
The court had to assess who drove negligently on the night in question and whose conduct was blameworthy.
He noted Rock had modified his evidence and this affected the weight of his evidence.
He dismissed the case but put a stay on making an order for costs in the event of an appeal.