Thursday, March 02, 2023

High Court reporters

A man’s claim that he was struck by a vehicle which was allegedly wrongfully in a disabled parking space in Limerick city is not supported by evidence, a High Court judge has found.

Mr Justice Cian Ferriter dismissed a personal injuries action brought by 60-year-old David McNamara against Bus Éireann, the former employer of the driver of the other vehicle.

Mr McNamara’s “sense of wrong” in relation to the event “appears to have become inflated” in his mind to the point that he was convinced the car drove into him, the judge said.

The case arose out of an altercation on January 26th, 2017, between Mr McNamara, of Parteen, Co Clare, and driver Edward Ryan, who had parked his Ford Fiesta van in a disabled spot in Limerick city centre while his granddaughter went to a nearby shop to buy stationery.

Mr McNamara, who has a disabled permit due to having a severe leg injury and related chronic pain, became exercised that Mr Ryan, who he noticed was wearing a Bus Éireann shirt, had parked in the space on Catherine Street.

Parking a little up the road, Mr McNamara returned to ask Mr Ryan if he had a disabled permit. He claimed Mr Ryan was rude and said he did not have to show a permit to someone who was not a traffic warden.

Mr McNamara said he walked around to the front of the vehicle to take a photo so he could report the driver. At that point, he said, the driver’s granddaughter returned and got into the passenger seat.

Mr McNamara alleged the driver started the car and moved forward so it “barely touched” his knees. Further arguments ensued between the pair, Mr McNamara claimed, before the vehicle “shot out” of the space, causing the side of the car to strike Mr McNamara’s left knee.

He claimed he twisted and fell down the side of the car.

Disputed claims

Mr Ryan, a former school transport supervisor, and his granddaughter both disputed this account and were clear the vehicle did not make contact with Mr McNamara, the judge said.

Mr Ryan accepted there was a heated exchange but was “adamant” he did not move the car forward.

Mr Justice Ferriter found Mr McNamara to be “argumentative and defensive” under cross-examination.

The judge added that he formed the “distinct impression” that Mr McNamara had “convinced himself, against the actual facts of the incident, that the wrong occasioned to him included being hit by the defendant’s car”.

The judge found the evidence of Mr Ryan’s granddaughter to be clearer and more reliable than that of Mr McNamara.

The judge accepted Mr Ryan’s evidence that his vehicle made no contact with Mr McNamara. However, he was not convinced by Mr Ryan’s claim that he was not aware he was in a disabled parking spot until it was put to him several days later by gardaí, whom Mr McNamara had complained to over the incident.

“It is difficult to avoid the conclusion that the entire episode could have been avoided if Mr Ryan had acted more reasonably from the outset, particularly when it must have become clear to him that he was not entitled to be in the disabled parking space,” the judge said.

Other infirmities in the plaintiff’s case included that his description of the incident was “far more dramatic” in court than when he recounted it to his GP the day after the event, the judge said.

His initial retelling to the doctor referenced the first alleged contact with the vehicle but did not include the claim that Mr Ryan’s car “shot out” of the parking space at speed, hitting him, the court heard. The GP also recorded no bruising on Mr McNamara’s body, the judge noted.

Given his pre-existing disability, the judge said he would have expected that the alleged impact would have caused “at least some” external damage to him, Mr Justice Ferriter added.

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