Insurers put on pressure to settle case, says publican

 

A publican sued by a customer who claimed he had allowed him to drive when drunk, causing him to have an accident which left him paralysed from the neck down, has said he had wanted to fight the case in court.

The customer, Mr Denis Murphy (55), from Clonbanin, Mallow, Co Cork, received more than £100,000 in a settlement after suing two licensed premises which served him on August 14th, 1990, the night he crashed his van into a wall on the Killarney road.

The case was struck out in the High Court in Cork on Tuesday when the settlement was announced.

Yesterday Mr William Napier, the owner of one of the pubs involved, said he and his wife had been willing to fight the case in court, but the insurance company insisted on settling. "We had nothing whatsoever to do with it. The insurers presented it as a fait accompli. But it makes it look as if we were the culprits."

He said his wife, Kay, had offered a number of customers a lift from the pub, the Roundabout Tavern in Mallow, as it was raining heavily on the night of the accident. She drove them back to the racecourse where they had parked their cars to attend a shareholders' meeting of the local co-ops.

"She was doing them a favour," Mr Napier said. Mr Murphy "was perfectly sober when he was taken out of here," he said. The accident happened about 21/2 hours later.

"We were never given an opportunity to put our case, and it looks like we're the culprits. We run a clean, very good house here." Mr Napier said he believed there was no legal precedent set as the case did not go to trial, but it might encourage other pub patrons to sue. "You'll have fellows falling over and falling out of bed after a night in the pub. It's going to become chaotic." Mr Murphy sued the Napiers and Mr Edward and Mrs Mary Canny of the Duhallow Lodge Hotel, Kanturk.

Mr Murphy's solicitor said yesterday he believed the case might affect publicans who allow customers to stockpile last-order drinks.

Mr Gerard O'Keeffe explained that publicans in Massachusetts are not allowed serve a drink at closing time to a customer who already has an unfinished drink, and Tuesday's settlement could result in publicans adopting similar practices here.

He rejected suggestions that Mr Murphy should have been prosecuted over the accident. "Mr Murphy was immediately taken to Mallow Hospital where he was unconscious for all practical purposes for a month.

"He was hospitalised there and at the National Rehabilitation Institute in Dublin for many, many months. Life has given him a blow an awful lot worse than being off the road for 12 months or two years for drunken driving. He has a much greater fine on him now than any monetary fine or any disqualification."