'These accidents were planned, four plaintiffs were party to a fraud' - judge
Each faces €20,000 bill after €240,000 of claims thrown out
A leading judge threw out claims against an insurance company by four people worth a joint €240,000, stating: "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 told counsel for Zurich Insurance 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, the judge said.
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 Byrne (28), of Suncroft Drive, Tallaght, Dublin 24, and her sister Jessica Byrne (25), of Bawnlea Avenue, Jobstown, Tallaght, also sued Ms McLoughlin and Zurich for €60,000 each for damages arising out of a rear-ending of their car by Ms McLoughlin at Fortunestown Road on February 12, 2015.
In a fourth rear-ending on July 21, 2014, Ian Doyle (33) of Academy Buildings, Parkwest, Dublin 12, Co Dublin, sued Ms McLoughlin for €60,000 damages for neck and lower back injuries.
The court heard Mr Slattery had been an injured passenger in Ms McLoughlin's car in this incident.
Judge Groarke in his reserved judgment also named several more 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 had been reported to gardaí and all involved minimal damage.
The judge said it was inescapable Mr Slattery had adduced or caused to be adduced misleading evidence. He saw no injustice in dismissing his case.
Mr Doyle, the judge said, had lied when denying knowing Samantha 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 Peter Murray about her attendance on a cruise with all of the plaintiffs in much earlier road traffic claims.
"Coincidences happen in life but the evidence in this case, which discloses coincidences of a most astonishing nature, really push the explanation of coincidence 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 all four plaintiffs were willing participants in these accidents.
"All are party to fraud and I dismiss their actions."
Mr Murray, who appeared with David Culleton of DAC Beachcroft for Zurich, was awarded costs, likely to run to €20,000 in each case, against all four plaintiffs.