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Judge says doctor should have known better as she dismisses GP’s €60,000 compensation claim for 'slight bump'

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Longford-based GP Dr Syed Ali. Photo: Shelley Corcoran

Longford-based GP Dr Syed Ali. Photo: Shelley Corcoran

Longford-based GP Dr Syed Ali. Photo: Shelley Corcoran

A Longford-based GP has been accused of deliberately exaggerating a “low-speed” traffic accident and of misleading a court in relation to injuries he is said to have sustained in another incident two years earlier.

Dr Syed Shadzad Ali (64), of Lanagh, Newtownforbes, Co Longford, claimed he was “jerked forcibly forward” when another motorist collided with the side of his car in the car park of his GP’s office in Longford in June 2017. The defendant’s vehicle was travelling at speeds of around nine or 10 kilometres per hour, according to a defence expert, who called it a “slight bump”.

Dismissing Dr Ali’s claim for up to €60,000 personal injuries on Thursday, Judge Karen Fergus said the GP “should have been well aware of the need for accuracy and full disclosure” in his claim “by virtue of his profession”.

Judge Fergus said she was aware of the dangers of “seizing upon anomalies and inconsistencies” that can arise in evidence and the damage that can be caused “to the good name of a worthy plaintiff”.

However, she said the “extent of the inconsistencies and the level of exaggeration” in Dr Ali’s claim led her to conclude that the GP probably knowingly gave exaggerated and misleading evidence.

Dr Ali sued businessman Eugene O’Brien at Longford Circuit Court arising out of an incident that occurred in the car park of the Longford Medical Centre, where Dr Ali’s practice is based, on June 7, 2017.

The defendant, Mr O’Brien, accepted responsibility for the accident but argued that the nature of the impact was so minimal that Dr Ali could not have suffered the injuries, loss or damage that he was claiming.

Dr Ali told the defendant’s medical examiner that the impact was “severe” and that he had been “jerked forcibly forward”. The defendant’s medical examiner did not agree that it was a severe impact but said it was a slight bump which, in his opinion, could not possibly have caused any injury to Dr Ali.

The GP claimed he had been parked in front of the health centre and was stationary when Mr O’Brien’s vehicle reversed into his rear resulting in a “violent” jolt.

However, CCTV footage viewed by Judge Fergus showed that Dr Ali’s car was not parked at the time but was driving slowly towards the parking space and “most certainly was not stationary”.

Dr Ali claimed he had been diagnosed by his GP as suffering from post-traumatic shock and that he experienced periods of depression. He said he was in receipt of ongoing treatment prescribed by his GP in the form of painkillers and that his “avid” pursuit of gardening had been restricted.

However, the court heard that Dr Ali had been involved in a previous incident in July 2015 when he is said to have injured his back. In that claim, which is ongoing, Dr Ali also told doctors that he had to cut down on gardening due to pain in his right leg and difficulties with forward flexion.

Judge Fergus said Dr Ali attended a neurosurgeon to get a medico legal report for the 2015 incident one month after the June 2017 incident. At that meeting, Dr Ali advised the neurosurgeon that his lifestyle had become significantly impinged since the 2015 incident and that he was having significant problems with his hobbies such as gardening.

There was no mention in any part of the neurosurgeon’s July 2017 report about the June 2017 incident one month earlier, the judge stated.

Judge Fergus said Dr Ali had also given direct evidence in court that he stopped going to the gym for several months as a result of his neck injury. He said the same thing to a pain management consultant about the 2015 incident, one month before the 2017 incident, the judge stated.

In reply to defence particulars, Dr Ali stated that his GP had diagnosed him with post traumatic shock. But his GP confirmed to the court that he did not make this diagnosis, the judge said.

Dr Ali said he initially availed of paracetamol two or three times a day immediately following the 2017 incident and that he was in receipt of ongoing treatment as prescribed by his GP in the form of painkillers.

However, it was clear from the notes of Dr Ali’s first visit to his GP five days after the 2017 incident that Dr Ali was on Panadol due to fasting for Ramadan, Judge Fergus said. No prescription was given and, the following day, Dr Ali self-prescribed a number of medications for himself for the next eight months, she added.

Judge Fergus said it was “abundantly clear” from the other claim proceedings that these drugs were prescribed by another doctor for Dr Ali’s back problems two years before the June 2017 incident.

Judge Fergus said she was satisfied that Dr Ali’s description of the incident, his replies to the defence and his description of alleged injuries were “exaggerated and misleading”.

“Dr Ali as a GP should be well aware of the need for accuracy and full disclosure in his pleadings and his account of his diagnosis and treatment from his Doctor,” Judge Fergus stated. “I don’t believe he was confused or suffering from the effects of age,” she added.

She said the “extent of the inconsistencies and the level of exaggeration and the attempt to blame his difficulties and restrictions at the door of this accident knowing that these difficulties were being attributed to a previous accident by a person who is well equipped by virtue of his profession to tell the difference, I am satisfied that on the balance of probabilities the plaintiff knowingly led this evidence”.

Judge Fergus said the defendants had succeeded in having the case dismissed under the Civil Liability Act 2004.

She awarded legal costs against Dr Ali but put a stay on the costs order in the event of an appeal.

Dr Ali was not in court for the judgment. The hearing took place in Longford Circuit Court on July 2.

Judge Fergus said she would have preferred the evidence of a defence engineer over Dr Ali’s engineer, if her decision rested on the engineers’ evidence alone.

She said Dr Ali’s engineer was given a description of the incident by Dr Ali from which the engineer drew his conclusions.

In his report, Dr Ali’s engineer concluded that the vehicle was impacted at its rear left hand side while stationary. He relied in his report on studies carried out into the potential effects of low speed rear end collisions which was “not the case here”, Judge Fergus said, as it was not a rear ending.

CCTV footage viewed by Judge Fergus “clearly” showed that Dr Ali’s car was not parked at the time of the incident but was driving slowly towards the car parking space when the impact occurred and was “most certainly” not stationary.

She said Dr Ali’s engineer “resiled” from the description of a rear end collision after he viewed the CCTV footage. The engineer accepted that Dr Ali’s vehicle was “shunted slightly from left to right” but that this was still sufficient to move the occupant of the car. He did not accept that in a low speed impact like this the suspension would have absorbed most of the impact.

The defendant’s engineer said it was low speed impact with his client’s vehicle travelling at around nine or 10 km/hr, that it was a lateral impact and that the suspension reduced the effect of the impact on the occupant of the car. In his opinion, the probability of injury was “very low” and it was “extremely unlikely” that the seat belt in Dr Ali’s vehicle locked.

Online Editors