Six people were left with neck and back injuries when they claimed to have been shaken in what was described as “a little bump” in a car park incident.
Forensic engineer Donal Terry told a judge the physical effect of the minor side impact would be similar to what passengers would experience in a vehicle rounding a bend or driving over a speed bump in a road.
Insurance company Liberty faced six compensation claims, possibly totalling €360,000, until Judge Jacqueline Linnane threw out two of them, stating there was some doubt the two claimants before the court had been in the vehicle.
Mr Terry and Robert McQuillan, consultant in emergency medicine, told the Circuit Civil Court that in their opinion Simon O’Donnell and his uncle Michael Lawrence could not have suffered the injuries they complained of from such a minor side impact.
O’Donnell, (19) of Shancastle Drive, Clondalkin, Dublin, and Lawrence, (46) of Loughnamona Close, Leixlip, Co Kildare, had sued Rhonda Dunphy who, they claimed, reversed her Landrover Freelander violently into a van in which they were passengers at Lidl, Fonthill, Clondalkin.
Both men told barrister Frank Martin, counsel for Ms Dunphy and Liberty Insurance, that the van was being driven by Simon O’Donnell’s father, Michael, as they and three others, a group of six, were on a fishing trip “to either Athy, Cavan or Baltinglass.”
They told the court the Freelander had reversed out of a parking bay and struck Michael O’Donnell’s van on the driver’s rear side causing a small dent but shaking the van sideways. Both had suffered neck and back injuries for which they had to receive medical treatment.
Michael O’Donnell, also of Shancastle Drive, said he was taking his brother-in-law Mr Lawrence and his son, Simon, together with three other sons, Martin, Anthony and Tommy, on the fishing trip. He had called to Lidl for refreshments for the trip which had to be abandoned as his van had been “destroyed” in the accident.
Mr Martin, who appeared with Tormeys Solicitors, told Michael O’Donnell that Liberty Insurance had a video of him entering another store a very short time after the accident with his two youngest sons, Anthony and Tommy, after having apparently locked Mr Lawrence and his sons Simon and Martin, in the van for 15 minutes on a sweltering hot day.
Mr O’Donnell denied a suggestion there had been no-one else in the van on the day in question. Mr Martin said Ms Dunphy had only seen Mr O’Donnell and his two youngest sons following the collision which Ms Chelsea Dunphy, the defendant’s daughter, described as a little bump.
Judge Linnane said she had heard conflicting stories in evidence about whether or not there was fishing gear in the van. She had not found Michael O’Donnell or his son, Simon, very convincing in giving evidence and felt the very low impact collision could not have caused the injuries Michael Lawrence and Simon O’Donnell complained of.
The judge, dismissing both €60,000 claims and awarding Ms Dunphy her legal costs against the claimants, said there were two other claims in the pipeline and Mr O’Donnell had indicated he intended taking two further claims on behalf of his two young under-age sons.