SUVs can deliver ‘knock-out’ punches to bantamweight cars, judge tells court

Woman seeks €60,000 after Ford Fiesta was rear-ended by SUV, court hears

The woman told the court injuries from a previous road incident were reactivated. File photograph: Chris Maddaloni/Collins

The woman told the court injuries from a previous road incident were reactivated. File photograph: Chris Maddaloni/Collins

 

Sports utility vehicles (SUVs) can deliver knock-out punches even in low-impact collisions with smaller cars such as three and five-door hatchbacks, a judge ruled today in a €60,000 personal injuries claim arising out of “a bump” at traffic lights.

Judge James McCourt said in the Circuit Civil Court he was well acquainted with the outcomes of low-impact collisions between heavy SUVs such as the two-ton 2016 Jaguar that had rear-ended Fáilte Ireland driver and tour guide Natasha Roper’s nine-year-old Ford Fiesta.

In boxing parlance Judge McCourt told barrister Matthew Jolley, counsel for Ms Roper, the court accepted that a heavyweight Jaguar SUV could easily deliver a knock-out punch to such bantam or featherweight vehicles such as the Ford Fiesta even in low-impact collisions.

Mr Jolley, who appeared with Martin Moran Solicitors, said Ms Roper, of The Stable, Ballinatone, Rathdrum, Co Wicklow, had been stopped at traffic lights on Braemor Road, Churchtown, Dublin, in August 2018 and was just moving off when Sandra Ruttle had driven her Jaguar SUV into the back of her car.

Ms Roper, a 51-year-old self-employed professional driver and tour guide associated with Fáilte Ireland clients, told Judge McCourt that before disengaging her handbrake she had looked in her rear-view mirror and had seen Ms Ruttle using her mobile phone. A second or two later the SUV had rearended her.

Ms Ruttle was not in court for Ms Roper’s €60,000 damages claim against her insurers Allianz, whose Allianz House, Elm Park, Merrion Road, Dublin address was stated in the proceedings as Ruttle’s ordinary place of residence.

Judge McCourt rejected a suggestion put to Ms Roper by defence counsel Shane English that she had not only exaggerated to the court her “minor injuries” but had repeatedly exaggerated the damage done to her car in the collision. Ms Roper denied defence counsel’s contention.

The judge described Ms Roper as “an entirely credible historian” with regard to events that had given rise to her claim.

“Obviously Ms Ruttle and Ms Roper did not intend to meet in this way but they did and I have no difficulty with the credibility of the plaintiff,” Judge McCourt said.

He accepted Ms Roper had almost fully recovered from similar injuries she had suffered in a high-speed rear-ending collision on the M4 a year prior to the incident on Braemor Road, Churchtown, which had reactivated the neck, shoulder and lower-back injuries she had complained of to the court.

He said she had settled a claim in earlier proceedings for €20,000 for personal injuries arising from the M4 accident and today the court awarded her €15,000 damages, inclusive of €1,500 for material damages and expenses, arising out of the Churchtown accident.

“I have no doubt the impact in this case was caused by the Jaguar SUV probably weighing two tons and upwards which is substantially more than a Ford Fiesta would weigh,” he said.

“This case has basically been an assessment of damages and it is conceded there was a collision, a jolt and an injury to Ms Roper.”