Monday 19 August 2019

Man who lost leg in traffic accident cannot join the local council as a defendant in his action for damages

Stock picture
Stock picture

Tim Healy

A MAN who lost a leg in a traffic accident which he claimed may have been partly caused by muck and grit on a bad road cannot join the local council as a defendant in his action for damages, the High Court ruled.

Luke O'Reilly's left leg below the knee had to be amputated arising out of the accident in which a car went out of control and hit him near Swords, Co Dublin, on February 16, 2010.

It is claimed Mr O'Reilly was driving along the Swords to Ballyboughal Road when he saw another car coming off the road and veering into a housing estate.

Mr O'Reilly, Barley Hill, Ballyboughal, got out of his car and went to assist the driver of the other car by helping her restart it. As he was standing talking with the other driver, he saw another car coming towards him along the grass verge.  

He began running towards his own car but was struck by the third car and suffered serious injuries requiring amputation of his leg at Beaumont Hospital. He sued the driver of the car which hit him.  

That driver's insurers, Aviva, initially wrote to him stating liability was not an issue but two months later Aviva said this was an error and liability was not conceded.

Following a garda report into the accident which stated the roadway was wet with small bits of dirt and muck on it which appeared to be a contributory factor in the collision,  Mr O'Reilly, following legal advice, then sought to join the local authority, Fingal Co Council, as a defendant in his action as it has responsibility for the public roadway.

The council applied to the High Court to dismiss the action against it claiming it had not been brought within the two year time limit under the Statute of Limitations (Amendment) Act, 1991.

It was argued that because the council was not joined as a defendant until July 2014, this was outside the time limit.

The garda report was sent to Mr O'Reilly in October 2010 which meant that, inclusive of an additional six-month holding period pending authorisation of the proceedings by the Injuries Board, the claim was statute barred on April 20, 2013, the council argued.

Mr O'Reilly's lawyers  argued that their full knowledge of the alleged causes of the accident was only complete in August 2013 after they had received an engineer's report which stated the curvature or camber of the road was another  possible contributory factor. 

Therefore, it was not statute barred.

Releasing the council from the proceedings, High Court president Mr Justice Nicholas Kearns said he was satisfied Mr O'Reilly's knowledge as to the council's possible liability was no later than October 20, 2010. 

The time limit started to run from this date and his case against the council was statute barred, he said.

The claim against the car driver remains extant.

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