Law student loses High Court damages action over road accident

Judge finds 22-year-old failed to prove liability on part of taxi driver over collision on unlit country road

Having observed both men giving evidence, the judge said he had no doubt each truly believed he was at all times on the correct side of the road. That could not be correct and one or the other, or both, are mistaken, he said.

Having observed both men giving evidence, the judge said he had no doubt each truly believed he was at all times on the correct side of the road. That could not be correct and one or the other, or both, are mistaken, he said.

 

A law student who suffered serious back injuries in a road accident in Co Dublin has lost his High Court damages action.

Mr Justice Bernard Barton found James Thomas Ian Smith, now aged 22, had failed to prove liability on the part of Gerard Hanaphy, a taxi driver, over the accident at Stockhole Lane, Cloughran, Co Dublin, three years ago.

Having assessed the evidence, the judge concluded the “sole responsibility” for the cause of the accident rested with Mr Smith for negligent driving on his part.

Mr Smith, of Screeby Road, Fivemiletown, Co Tyrone, who is studying law at Manchester University, sued Mr Hanaphy as a result of the accident.

In his recently published judgment, the judge noted both parties had agreed Mr Smith had suffered serious back injuries although he had made a good recovery.

He said the accident happened when both men were driving in opposite directions along an unlit country road, with which Mr Smith was unfamiliar. Driving conditions were poor, it was dark and the road surface was wet.

The judge said Mr Smith’s Vauxhall Astra car collided with the Skoda Octavia car being driven by Mr Hanaphy, who was driving home having dropped off a fare earlier, on an S-bend and came to rest proximate to, or slightly on, the grass verge of the carriageway on which Mr Hanaphy was travelling.

Gardaí were called to the scene and both drivers were breathalysed with negative results. Neither driver had accused the other of driving too fast but both maintained they were on their correct side of the road when the collision occurred.

Mr Smith’s evidence was that, as he approached the bend at 25-30km an hour, he was keeping tight to his left hand side of the road when a car suddenly appeared from the other direction, straddling a continuous white line on the crown of the road, and collided with him.

Mr Hanaphy’s evidence was that he was very familiar with the road, had just come out of one bend and was going into another when the lights of a car coming in the opposite direction suddenly appeared and there was a collision. Both men said they had no time to brake or swerve.

Having observed both men giving evidence, the judge said he had no doubt each truly believed he was at all times on the correct side of the road. That could not be correct and one or the other, or both, are mistaken, he said.

Having regard to factors including engineering evidence, the damage to the front of the cars and the rest location of the cars, the judge found both men were mistaken in their evidence as to where they thought the collision occurred.

He held it occurred much further around the bend and also held the most likely point of impact of the two vehicles was on the defendant’s side of the road.

He concluded the cause of the accident rested with Mr Smith for, in all the circumstances of the case, negligent driving on his part. Because Mr Smith had failed to prove his case on the balance of probabilities, and had failed to establish liability on the part of Mr Hanaphy, the damages issues did not arise, the judge said.

Formal orders arising from the judgment will be made on a later date.