Frivolous claim gets short shrift from judge

by Finian Coghlan

An unqualified driver who caused an accident while taking a cigarette from her daughter, and whose former partner did most of the repair work as part of the claim against the person she hit, had her case dismissed in court this week (February 21 ).

“As far as the plaintiff is concerned, all other road users have to get out of her way. It is clear the plaintiff wasn’t exercising due care and attention,” said Judge Rory MacCabe.

Majella Kavanagh (47 ), with an address in Rosemount, but formerly of Drumraney, had brought a civil action against Ginure Kriunienc, blaming her for the impact at the junction of the old Galway Road and the Roscommon Road on December 6, 2008.

Kavanagh had come in the Roscommon Road and was hoping to turn right, while Ms Kriunienc - who has a full, Irish driving licence - was driving with right of way from Baylough into Athlone when the crash occurred.

In her evidence Kavanagh admitted she only held a provisional licence, had only been driving for two years at the time of the accident, was over the stop line “by a foot or a foot and a half” on the wrong side, but still contended she was hit by Ms Kriunienc.

Also, when asked was she familiar with this road, Kavanagh replied: “Not really, no”, only for her daughter Louise Fleming (18 ) to say in her evidence that she travelled it “at least once a week”.

She submitted a claim of €2,705 for damages, but the receipt was unsigned, and it was also revealed €1,100 worth of the labour was done by her former partner of 22 years, Kieran Fleming.

She also said she had attended her doctor with pain in her neck, shoulder, and lower back, and had been prescribed Diphene which she said she had “been on and off [it] since the day”.

However, an MRI she submitted in her medical report showed evidence of “congenital nerve damage which has nothing to do with this incident”, accorrding to defence barrister Stephen Groarke.

Also, her GP, Dr Fiona Lee-Hamilton, who saw her the following day, gave evidence that she only prescribed Kavanagh with seven days’ worth of the painkiller.

In cross-examination Kavanagh accepted she had stopped on the wrong side of the road at this junction, thereby not allowing outcoming cars to turn right onto the Roscommon Road.

She also said she didn’t see Ms Kriunienc’s car coming, but later said she was travelling too fast.

Judge MacCabe also noticed discrepancies in her statement of particulars, a legal document needed for such a claim, in which all the details of the crash are formally noted by a solicitor.

“Mrs Kavanagh, did you tell your solicitor your former partner fixed your car, or did he make that up?” warned Judge MacCabe to the now somewhat distressed plaintiff.

“Would you like to take five minutes?” he asked.

“My ex-partner paid for it, or at least he told me he did,” sobbed Kavanagh.

“Mallarkey! You didn’t pay for these repairs?” asked the judge.

“Where would I get €2,700?” said the unemployed plaintiff.

“Well, you can drop that from the claim, then,” said the judge to her legal team.

Her barrister Mr John Hayden tried to talk her through this hiccup by suggesting she may have made this assertion in a phone call to her solicitor’s office, but Kavanagh continued to claim “I never answered these questions”.

Her daughter Louise gave evidence of “lighting mammy a fag” at the time of the crash, and that the journey was between Kavanagh’s two daughters’ houses.

Evidence from engineer Mr Frank Abbott, corroborated by photographs, confirmed there was no indication of any damage to the front of Ms Kriunienc’s car, while attending Garda Margaret Doyle told the court she believed Kavanaghs’ car pulled out into Kriunienc’s.

When the defendant told the court she drove the road five times a week, had just slowed down to negotiate the ramp at the Tavern, and had tried to take evasive action, Judge MacCabe decided he had heard enough, and declared: “The defendant is blameless in this, and consequently the plaintif f’s claim is dismissed”.

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