Monday 19 August 2019

Judge dismisses €240k damages claim as accident was 'orchestrated'

(Stock image)
(Stock image)

Ray Managh

One would want to be blind not to see that there was a hand orchestrating a number of accidents in which four people had claimed a joint purse of €240,000 damages against an insurance company, a judge said Wednesday.

“These accidents were planned…and all four plaintiffs were willing participants in them and party to a fraud,” Circuit Court President, Mr Justice Raymond Groarke, said when throwing out all of the claims that he heard over three days last month.

Judge Groarke told Paul Murray S.C., counsel for Zurich Insurance which defended all cases, that 41-year-old undertaker and part-time airport driver Peter Slattery would be entirely comfortable to engage in a scam of fraudulent claims arising from set-up accidents. He had but a passing familiarity with the truth and none of his evidence was credible.

In one of four €60,000 damages claims Mr Slattery, of Charlemont, Griffith Avenue, Dublin 9, had sued his girlfriend Belinda McLoughlin and Zurich for damages for neck and back injuries arising from a rear-ending crash.

Ms McLoughlin, of Holywell Crescent North, Swords, Co Dublin, was a joint defendant with Zurich in all of the four claims involving separate accidents. She had admitted liability in all but took no part in any of the cases.

Samantha (Sammy) Byrne (28) of Suncroft Drive, Tallaght (neck injuries) and her sister Jessica Byrne (25) of Bawnlea Avenue, Jobstown, Tallaght, (back injuries) also sued Ms McLoughlin and Zurich for €60,000 each for damages arising out of a rear-ending of their car by McLoughlin at Fortunestown Road on 12 February 2015.

In a fourth rear-ending seven months earlier and again admittedly caused by Ms McLoughlin on 21st July 2014, Ian Doyle (33) of Academy Buildings, Parkwest, Dublin 12, a mechanic and part-time car salesman, sued Ms McLoughlin for €60,000 damages for neck and lower back injuries.

The court heard that Mr Slattery had been an injured passenger in his partner Ms McLoughlin’s car which had rear-ended the car in which Ian Doyle was a passenger.

Judge Groarke in his reserved judgment, also named Aoife, Tracey, Marie O’Flaherty, Scott Doyle, Shane Kelly, Andrew Grainger, Barbara Byrne, Elaine Duffy, Gary Darcy, Scott Burke, Paul Weldon, Jamie Dutton, Amanda Dutton, Ciara Weldon, Karl Byrne, Shane Byrne and Karl Donnelly as people who had made claims, not all before his court.  He said Mr Slattery had been common to five of them and his girlfriend Ms McLoughlin had been party to three of them.

None of the accidents before the court had been reported to gardaí and no formal garda investigation had been carried out in any of them and all involved minimal damage.

The judge said it was inescapable from the evidence that Mr Slattery had adduced or caused to be adduced misleading evidence and had done so knowing it to be misleading.  He saw no injustice in dismissing his case.

Ian Doyle, the judge said, had lied to the court with the purpose of concealing his true relationship with the O’Flaherty women whom he clearly knew very well and had socialised with. He had also lied when denying knowing Sammy Byrne and “his credibility, too, is in tatters.”

Judge Groarke said Jessica Byrne had impressed him in the witness box but had lost confidence when cross-examined by Mr Murray about her attendance on a cruise with all of the plaintiffs in much earlier road traffic claims.  Her sister Samantha had done herself no favours in the manner in which she had sought to conceal a previous accident and injuries.

“Co-incidences happen in life but the evidence in this case, which discloses co-incidences of a most astonishing nature, really push the explanation of co-incidence off the cliff,” Judge Groarke said.

“These accidents were planned and fraud is the rational and cogent conclusion to be drawn and I am satisfied that all four plaintiffs were willing participants in these accidents.  All are party to fraud and I dismiss their actions,” Judge Groarke said.

Mr Murray, who appeared with solicitors DAC Beachcroft for Zurich, was awarded costs, likely to run to €20,000 in each case, against all four plaintiffs.

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