Bus Eireann have lost a Supreme Court appeal from a decision made by the High Court on the 16th of May 2006 in which damages of €40,000 was awarded to a lady who was injured on one of their buses in Limerick in 2004.
The facts of the case were that on the 13th of November 2004, Ms. Ahern was travelling as a passenger on a Bus Eireann bus in O’Connell Street in Limerick when the driver was forced to brake heavily to avoid a collision with a car which pulled out in front of the bus. As a consequence Ms. Ahern fell from her seat and injured her face, chest, left thumb and lower left leg.
Liability was not disputed by Bus Eireann when the case came before the High Court. However, the nature and extent of the injuries suffered by the Plaintiff as a result of the accident were contested. In particular there was a dispute about her claim that she needed a carer as a result of the accident which led her to claim Special Damages (out of pocket expenses) of €177,000.
The case came on for hearing before the High Court in Limerick in May 2006. At the conclusion of Ms. Ahern’s case her claim for future care costs was withdrawn. Ms. Ahern succeeded in her claim against Bus Eireann in that the High Court assessed damages and awarded General Damages for (a) pain and suffering to date €25,000 and (b) pain and suffering into the future €15,000, being a total award of €40,000.
The Defendants argued that the conduct of the Plaintiff’s claim was one of exaggeration
Under the anti-fraud provisions in the Civil Liability & Courts Act 2004 and that the claim should be dismissed. In particular Bus Eireann claimed that the Plaintiff had provided false and misleading evidence relating to the psychological consequences of the accident including her ability to travel alone and that she had sworn a false Affidavit.
Ms. Ahern was a 78 year old widow at the time of the accident and had a history of suffering from stress and had required medication. There had also been a history of mild elevated blood pressure and she had pre-existing osteoarthritis. The Judge held in the case that “it was accepted that due to the history of stress that the Plaintiff was a somewhat fragile candidate for an accident given her age and pre-existing osteoarthritis”. With regard to the claim that the Plaintiff exaggerated her need for future care the Judge held that the evidence given by the Plaintiff and in her affidavits was not knowingly false or misleading.
The Court addressed specifically her claims under s. 26 of the Act 2004 and determined that the provisions did not apply to her action.
The Supreme Court held that on the evidence before the High Court Judge he was entitled to hold as he did that Ms. Aherne did not knowingly mislead the Court or swear an affidavit that was false and misleading in any material respect. The High Court Order for damages was affirmed and the Appeal was dismissed.