The Supreme Court has dismissed an appeal by Bus Eireann against a High Court judgement in a personal injury case where an injured plaintiff was awarded a sum of €260,000.00 damages for injuries sustained in a road traffic accident on 31st of July 1999 at Rathcoole County Dublin.
The High Court awarded damages to Ms. Theresa Goodwin who sustained the following injuries in the accident:
- Pain in her neck radiating to her left arm and into her hand.
- An injury to her left shoulder.
- Pain and weakness in her lower back radiating down her left leg causing her to limp.
The High Court awarded damages to Ms. Goodwin as follows:
- Loss of earnings to date €137,280.00
- Interest on loss of earnings €63,413.00
- Pain and suffering to date €90,000.00
- Pain and suffering in the future €60,000.00
- Out of pocket expenses €40,475.00
Bus Eireann appealed the judgement in its entirety to the supreme court claiming that the High Court judge had failed to dismiss the plaintiffs claim under Section 26 of The Civil Liability Act 2004.
Bus Eireann claimed that the evidence given by Ms. Goodwin in the hearing of her action had been false and misleading and that she had fraudulently exaggerated her claim. Bus Eireann engaged a private investigator to film Ms. Goodwin on a number of occasions both in Ireland and in the United States where she resides. The defendants also called as a witness Mr. Anthony McGuinness, Consultant Orthopaedic surgeon and Mr. Michael O’Sullivan a Consultant Neurological Surgeon.
The evidence of the two medical witnesses was that they did not accept that many of the symptoms of which Ms. Goodwin complained of were genuine, they were not consistent from one observation to another, they were not compatible with the absence of any objective evidence of any neurological deficit .
The defendants relied on the evidence of the experts in support of their case that Ms. Goodwins evidence was grossly exaggerated and in that sense was false and misleading. However, neither medical witness was prepared to say that she was deliberately and consciously untruthful.
In delivering the judgement of the Supreme Court Mr. Justice Fennelly held that the plaintiff had not given false or misleading evidence. The judge stated that the High Court judge that heard the case had the advantage of seeing Ms. Goodwin and of hearing her evidence. He said she was the judge who had heard all the witnesses and that the Supreme Court could not substitute itself for the trial judge in the assessment of the credibility of witnesses.