€25k award for couple after rats infest cars

They may claim to have “the best built cars in the world”, but Toyota has been sued by a Co Galway couple after rats infested both of their Toyota Avensis cars.

Ina and Alan Dempsey, both in their 30s, from Cummer, Corofin, near Tuam, Co Galway, bought two new diesel Avensis cars, one in Mar 2006 and the other in Apr 2007, from Tom Hogan Motors Ltd, Ballybrit, Galway.

Ms Dempsey first noticed something amiss with her 2007 car when she saw a hole, the size of an apple, in the back seat as she was about to drive to work on Jan 9, 2008.

The couple called a pest controller, who inspected both cars.

“He found rat droppings all over both cars. They were even in the glove compartments and papers in my glove compartment had been eaten,” said Ms Dempsey.

“He found pools of rat urine in the side pockets in the car boots and Alan’s yellow builder’s helmet, which was in the boot of his car, had urine in it too…

“I could never sit in those cars again. We couldn’t even bring ourselves to look at them after that.”

The rodents were gaining access by gnawing through a cloth cover on a vent situated under the wheel arch on the rear passenger’s side. From there they had access to the entire car.

The cars were taken back to Tom Hogan Motors and it was confirmed that rats entered both cars through the vent in question.

Ms Dempsey said she asked for a full refund for both cars but neither Toyota Ireland Ltd nor Tom Hogan Motors Ltd were prepared to offer a refund.

The couple eventually managed to sell them on as pest-damaged goods to a trade buyer for €32,000, suffering a cumulative loss of €18,200 on the deal.

Following a hearing at Galway Circuit Civil Court last week, during which other Avensis owners gave evidence of similar rodent infestations, Judge Keenan Johnson found that Toyota had made no real effort to engage with the Dempseys and he awarded Ms Dempsey €13,181 for the loss incurred in the sale of her car, and awarded her and her husband €12,650 for the 2006 model, plus costs and out-of-pocket expenses.

When asked to comment on the court’s decision, Toyota Ireland Ltd issued the following statement: “As the case may be subject to appeal, it continues to be sub judice and we are precluded from commenting further.”

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