Sunday 23 September 2018

'Grief' cash awarded to toddler for sister killed before he was born

Little Vanessa Siatka was just a month short of her second birthday when she was killed
Little Vanessa Siatka was just a month short of her second birthday when she was killed
Ciaran Lane was jailed for five years for dangerous driving

Ray Managh

A toddler who had not been conceived when his little sister was killed in a hit-and-run incident has been awarded €1,500 "grief money" for her death.

Marcel Siatka was born on May 24, 2016, one year and 47 days after his sister Vanessa died in what a trial judge then called the worst case of dangerous driving he had ever heard of.

Ciaran Lane (27) was jailed in April 2016 for five years after he pleaded guilty to dangerous driving, causing the death of the 23-month-old girl on Easter Sunday 2015 at a roundabout in Phoenix Park.

Barrister Conor Kearney, counsel for Marcel and Vanessa's father Lukasz Siatka, told Judge Terence O'Sullivan in the Circuit Civil Court that the Injuries Board had assessed damages of €42,777 to be divided between Vanessa's surviving family and to include the cost of her funeral.

Mr Kearney, who appeared with Suzanne McDonnell, of McDonnell Solicitors, said the board had not, in its assessment, considered compensation for Marcel as he had not been born at the time of Vanessa's death.

Judge O'Sullivan heard that under the provisions of the Civil Liability Act, Mr Siatka had taken a claim on behalf of members of his family, including Marcel.

Mr Siatka, of Brandon Square, Waterville, Blanchardstown, Dublin 15, said Vanessa had a brother born more than a year after her death, who was not included in the assessment.

Expenses

Mr Kearney said the funeral, including a headstone, had cost €7,240 and the solatium, more commonly known as "tear money", had been assessed at €14,500 each for Vanessa's father Lukasz and her mother Katarzyna, with €2,000 each for three grandparents.

There were other expenses.

He said it was for the court to approve the assessment and the parents had stated they had no difficulty for compensation, as decided by the court, being shared with Marcel, the brother Vanessa had not lived to know.

Judge O'Sullivan said it was not a particularly nice exercise to have to divide money between members of the family, but he felt it would be appropriate to mark the fact that Marcel would undoubtedly make inquiries in the future about his sister and would experience grief for her loss.

He said the €6,000 allocated to the three grandparents should be reduced to €1,500 each so as to allow for Marcel also receiving €1,500 and he directed that Marcel's money be paid into court to his future benefit.

He offered the court's sympathy with the family.

Lane, who was 25 at the time of the fatal hit and run, of Ashington Avenue, Navan Road, received a seven-year sentence, with two years suspended from Judge Patrick McCartan after he pleaded guilty in 2016.

Garda Owen O'Doherty, of Cabra garda station, told the trial judge that the accident happened in Phoenix Park as Vanessa had been standing next to her mother's parked car.

Dragged

Lane was driving a Toyota Corolla and crashed into the child at high speed and dragged her along the road.

The trial also heard that Lane drove off at speed but gave himself up later to gardaí in Cabra.

During the course of the sentencing, evidence was given that Lane had consumed a litre of vodka and two grammes of cocaine before taking to the road in his car with two friends that day.

Judge McCartan had heard he had panicked and ignored the pleas of his friends to stop.

When he had heard of Vanessa's death it had hit him "like a tonne of bricks".

In a victim impact statement the child's mother told how she could only watch as her "baby was taken away" from her.

In hit and run cases accident victims are eligible for compensation through a special fund set up under the Motor Vehicles Act 1988 called the Solatium Fund.

A portion of the gross written premium is contributed towards the fund every year by both public and private insurers.

Irish Independent

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