FREED Mayo farmer Padraig Nally will have to endure a third court trial over the shooting of Traveller John 'Frog' Ward. His widow Marie Ward is seeking compensation from Mr Nally, who was acquitted of murder and manslaughter after two trials that divided the nation.
FREED Mayo farmer Padraig Nally will have to endure a third court trial over the shooting of Traveller John 'Frog' Ward.
His widow Marie Ward is seeking compensation from Mr Nally, who was acquitted of murder and manslaughter after two trials that divided the nation.
Wrongful death suits, dubbed "blood money" trials, are virtually unprecedented in Ireland, especially against individuals acquitted of a crime by a jury or those who have never faced criminal charges.
The revelation that Padraig Nally is to be sued by the Ward family was made at the opening of the inquest into the death of Mr Ward yesterday.
During the inquest Mr Nally told how he had fired two shots at the Traveller and beaten him with a stick.
The jury returned a verdict that Mr Ward died as a result of gunshot wounds and blunt force trauma to the head.
However, the inquest was adjourned after Paid Dorrian, a solicitor acting on behalf of Marie Ward, said she is suing Mr Nally in the High Court for killing her husband outside his farm in October 2004.
Mr Dorrian said he could give no further details of the civil trial.
However, the Irish Independent has learned that all preliminary work on the compensation case has been completed and High Court proceedings are now underway.
Mrs Ward, who is pregnant with her 12th child, is seeking unlimited damages against the man she believes was responsible for his death.
The tort-based claim, which may include aggravated damages, has been launched on behalf of her 11 children with her late husband.
The case, which resembles the $8.5m wrongful death civil suit against American football player OJ Simpson, will see Mrs Ward claim unlimited damages for her husband's wrongful death.
She is also suing for mental distress, economic loss, loss of services and loss of income.
Sources close to the Ward family last night said they "had nothing to lose" by launching the case. They also indicated that Marie Ward may be prepared to accept an out-of-court settlement if the sum were favourable.
"There are eleven children here to be looked after," a source close to the family told the Irish Independent.
"The amount of money and the manner in which it would be distributed will be a matter for the High Court. There is no question of this being resolved without court approval."
Civil trials differ significantly from criminal trials.
The burden of proof is lower, which may serve as an advantage to the Ward family, but many people are uncomfortable with the notion of compensating families for the death of loved ones.
Juries were abolished in fatal injuries cases in 1988, but "blood money" compensation cases in the wake of alleged serious crimes, such as manslaughter or rape, are on the increase in Ireland.
Last year, the family of Nuala Gilton, one of the five victims of the Wellington Quay crash, were awarded ?750,000 in settlement of their High Court action against Dublin Bus.
Civil actions against individuals are rare and are usually instigated by grieving families following controversial jury verdicts or where a criminal prosecution has not been mounted.
Three years ago, the parents and son of the murdered French woman Sophie Toscan Du Plantier, launched a civil case against journalist Ian Bailey claiming he had wrongfully caused her death.
The High Court refused to strike out the action, but her family later abandoned the action.
The Government is currently being sued for wrongful death by a number of families, including the family of the John Carthy, shot down by gardai outside his home in Abbeylara.
They also face an action by the family of Clonmel teenager Brian Rossiter, who died after being detained overnight in garda custody.
Mr Nally, who has become a reluctant cause celebre for homeowners to use force to defend their family and property, insisted at all times that he acted in self-defence when he shot dead Mr Ward.
He was acquitted of the manslaughter of Mr Ward after his conviction for manslaughter was overturned on a retrial last December.
At the conclusion of his retrial, a jury of eight men and four took 15 hours to find him not guilty of the manslaughter of John 'Frog' Ward.
The hearing had earlier been told that the Traveller had 80 previous convictions.
Yesterday's inquest in Castlebar was delayed for an hour as South Mayo Coroner John O'Dwyer waited to see if Marie Ward would attend.
Dearbhail McDonald and Brian McDonald