Court rejects car hire firm’s claim crash was staged

High Court rejects appeal of Circuit Court decision awarding sums to seven men

Mr Justice Charles Meenan said the most that was admitted by the plaintiffs was that some of the men knew each other “to see”

Mr Justice Charles Meenan said the most that was admitted by the plaintiffs was that some of the men knew each other “to see”

 

Seven men have been awarded sums of between €5,050 and €9,550 over a traffic collision after the High Court rejected a car hire company’s claim that the collision was a set-up.

The case concerned an appeal by Ryans Investments NI Ltd, trading as Hertz Rent-a-Car, against a Circuit Court decision awarding the seven similar sums over an incident on a roundabout in Lifford, Co Donegal, on June 28th, 2011.

Five men were travelling in the hire car, while four were in a second car which was hit because the other car failed to stop as it came onto the roundabout, the court heard. Seven of the occupants sued over back and neck injuries.

Hertz claimed those involved knew each other through membership of two Republican commemoration groups – the Joseph Plunkett and Charlie D’Arcy Societies.

Mr Justice Charles Meenan said the most that was admitted by the plaintiffs was that some of the men knew each other “to see”.

Though the evidence in some instances concerning prior knowledge of each other was “less than forthright”, he did not believe such evidence went so far as to establish the collision was a “set-up”, the judge said.

Hertz had also relied on an overheard phone conversation when the man who hired the car returned it to the Derry Hertz office, he noted.

The hirer, Gareth Feeney, with addresses in Strabane, Co Tyrone, and Middlesex, England, rang the driver of the other car, Martin Lafferty (56), from Clady, Strabane, looking for details of Mr Lafferty’s car.

Hertz claimed he opened the conversation with “how’re ya Marty”. Mr Feeney was also sued, but did not defend the case.

Information

Mr Justice Meenan said one would have thought, if the collision was a set-up, the information sought by Mr Feeney in the phone call would already have been firmly fixed in his mind prior to returning the hire car. “This information would be an essential part of the whole operation.”

He said Hertz had also alleged the seven had considerably exaggerated the nature, extent and effects of their various injuries. “Evidence was adduced of a number of the plaintiffs engaging in dancing, skiing, running and skydiving in the years following but not immediately after the collision.” However, the medical reports, admitted by Hertz, on each of them were consistent with the evidence they gave. It followed they were entitled to damages.

He awarded various sums to the seven, all from Strabane: Kevin Darragh (32), Townsend Street €8,050; Ivan Hunter (48), Castlegrange €6,550; Aaron Kelly (36) Castlegrange €5,050; Martin Feeney (55), Carlton Drive €5,050; Martin Lafferty (56), Clady €9,050; Thaddeus Deazley (57), Orchard Road €9,550 and Neil Lafferty (29), Bellscourt, Clady €9,550.