Friday 20 July 2018

Woman who 'developed a fear of car park barriers' after incident in Aldi has €60k claim dismissed

Judge found claimant accurate and honest about a claim she unfortunately had been unable to stand up in court

Martina Fitzpatrick (52) of Toormore, Ruan, Ennis, Co Clare pictured leaving the Four Courts yesterday after a Circuit Civil Court action for damages was dismissed. Photo: Collins Courts
Martina Fitzpatrick (52) of Toormore, Ruan, Ennis, Co Clare pictured leaving the Four Courts yesterday after a Circuit Civil Court action for damages was dismissed. Photo: Collins Courts

Ray Managh

A Co Clare woman, who claimed she had developed a fear of road and car park barriers since her car was hit by one, was told Wednesday that she could not be awarded damages just for anxiety.

A personal injuries claim for up to €60,000 damages against supermarket Aldi was dismissed by Judge Terence O’Sullivan who said in the Circuit Civil Court that he found Martina Fitzpatrick (52) of Toormore, Ruan, Ennis, accurate and honest about a claim she unfortunately had been unable to stand up in court.

Fitzpatrick had told the court that in December 2015 she was dropping a friend of her daughter off at an Aldi car park in Gort, Co Galway, when the entrance barrier had come down on the roof, windscreen and bonnet of her car which had since been repaired by the superstore.

She told barrister Niamh O’Dounabhain, counsel for Aldi, that she had not come to court to seek some humongous amount of damages for physical injuries.  She had not been physically hurt but it had been suggested she had been speeding into the Aldi car park, which she was not, and she wanted the truth to come out. She had not wanted to remain accused of lying or being a liar.

Ms O’Dounabhain, who appeared with Vincent and Beatty Solicitors for Aldi Stores (Ireland) Limited, said Ms Fitzpatrick, in her civil bill had initially alleged a back injury had been exacerbated by the barrier incident. While the plaintiff had fairly stated in evidence that she had no physical injury Aldi was asking that the case dismissed with an award of costs in their favour.

Fitzpatrick, who represented herself in court, said she had developed a fear of barriers and often ducked when driving through them on motorways. She had developed an anxiety about them.

Ms O’Dounabhain said Aldi had conceded liability in the case and had promptly paid for the repair of Ms Fitzpatrick’s car. In her letter of claim to Aldi, Ms Fitzpatrick had not made any claim of physical injury or psychological injury.

Judge O’Sullivan said Ms Fitzpatrick had alleged in her civil bill that a back complaint had been exacerbated by the falling barrier but had stated on at least three occasions in the witness box that she had not suffered any physical injury.  She had complained of trauma and was now anxious about going under barriers and had to be commended for her honesty.

“She now is anxious around the issue of barriers but the law is clear as summarised by the then Chief Justice (Liam) Hamilton who had held that a plaintiff must establish that he or she had suffered a recognisable psychiatric illness as a result of an incident,” Judge O’Sullivan said. He said anxiety as such was not actionable and damages could not be awarded for anxiety.

“Unfortunately she does not come within the recognisable head of damage which is compensatable in law and her anxiety cannot be compensated by me on the basis of what I have heard,” the judge said. “This is an action for damages and she must establish damage and she has not.”

Judge O’Sullivan dismissed her claim and said that in the circumstances he would not award costs for or against either party.

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