Wednesday 21 March 2018

Woman loses injury damages claim over photos on Facebook

Rita Milinovic outside court
Rita Milinovic outside court
Rita Milinovic in a photo taken on Bray Head and posted on Facebook

Ray Managh

Facebook pictures posted online by "a very fine human specimen of fitness" demolished a woman's €60,000 damages claim in the Circuit Civil Court for personal injuries.

A 29-year-old waitress was told by a judge that she had not been honest with the court in a case that highlighted the dangers of what some people post on the website.

Rita Milinovic, a Lithuanian who has been living in Ireland for almost 10 years, had "winced in agony" in the witness box as she related how her life had been dramatically changed by what was described as a minor collision in a car park.

Her case collapsed when barrister Shane English brought her through a collection of pictures which she had posted of herself on Facebook since the accident.

She was unaware Mr English and Newmans Allianz solicitors, the legal team acting for defending van driver Paul Ferris and O'Dwyer Property Management Limited, had downloaded them from her Facebook page.

They included a picture of her after having climbed to the top of Bray Head, as well as shots of her posing in a bikini at international body sculpture competitions, and others exercising in a gym.

Milinovic, of Belfry Hall, Citywest, Dublin, told the court she had been driving her boyfriend's car on April 5 last year, looking for a space in a car park, when Ferris, a driver for O'Dwyer Property Management, Sandyford Industrial Estate, reversed into her.

She claimed she had suffered severe personal injuries and had to give up her waitressing work for six months before having to abandon her work altogether because she had been in such pain.

Milinovic told Mr English in cross-examination she had never been a member of a gym before the barrister produced evidence of her current membership and pictures of her exercising in a gym in Dublin and another in Lithuania. She said she swam at the Dublin gym to help her back.

Mr English then presented her with pictures of herself in a bikini at competitions in Lithuania, Latvia and Denmark. She said she had posed in photo shoots for a magazine.

"You have been wincing in agony in the witness box while giving your evidence and denied on oath you were ever a member of a gym," Mr English said. "You have told us nothing about your sports hobbies until your own Facebook pictures were presented to the court."

"Your case from beginning to end is a lie," Mr English said. "You are prepared to sue the defendants for damages and six months salary because you were incapable of working."

When Mr English asked the court to dismiss her case before any further evidence was allowed, Circuit Court President Mr Justice Raymond Groarke said the case was "worrying".

He said Ms Milinovic had presented a case of very serious injuries yet she had been photographed after walking to the top of Bray Head.

"Trying to be as politically correct as one can be in this situation, it does not look like a person with such a fine physical physique as Ms Milinovic has could have been suffering a great deal of pain," the judge said.

"The person we see in these photographs is a very fine human specimen who is clearly in the best of physical condition and who has been working to get into that physical condition," he said.

Irish Independent

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