High-speed car crash compensation bid dismissed

A 30-year-old man who was seriously injured in a crash after a high-speed car chase — in which two teenagers were killed — had his case for compensation dismissed at the High Court as he and others were found to have been part of an extremely dangerous enterprise fuelled by revenge.

John Heaphy, 30, with an address at Crestfield Downs, Glanmire, Co Cork, and previously of Blarney St, Cork, brought the case against the two drivers and the Motor Insurance Bureau of Ireland.

The drivers of two cars were convicted in 2010 for dangerous driving causing the death of two teenagers.

At Cork Circuit Criminal Court in December 2010, James Simms, 35, of no fixed address, and Philip Murphy, 48, of 58 Killala Gardens, Knocknaheeny, Cork, were sentenced for their dangerous driving on Friday, May 14, 2010 on Harbour View Rd, causing the death of CJ Dolan, aged 16, and Derry O’Callaghan, aged 19.

John Heaphy was the front-seat passenger in the car driven by Simms and in which the two teenagers were fatally injured.

Ms Justice Bronagh O’Hanlon has delivered her judgment at the High Court and has dismissed Heaphy’s claim for any damages.

She said: “This court is entitled, on the evidence it has heard, to conclude that the real and true cause of this accident was the fact that two vehicles were chasing one another over a long period of time in a joint enterprise in exceptionally dangerous circumstances where they were both driving in or about 120m/h and that the effective cause of this accident has to lie in this fact and in the enterprise in which they were engaged which was illegal and exceptionally dangerous, not only to themselves but to other parties ie other road users.

"This court does not accept that the original role of the plaintiff in urging the second defendant to follow the first defendant’s motor vehicle was remote from the crash which occurred in the end.

“[I dismiss] the plaintiff’s claim on the basis that all were part of a thoroughly illegal venture, with aggression and revenge at its centre and shared complete disregard for their own safety and for the safety of others to an extreme degree.

"It was both foreseeable and probable that the red Ford Mondeo would have crashed in any event. Likewise, given the proximity of the second vehicle to it and the ferocious speed of both vehicles, it was highly probable the black Volkswagen would also have crashed.

"In all the circumstances this court cannot conclude or decide a duty of care existed from the defendants to the plaintiff and the plaintiff’s case must fail.”

Elizabeth O’Connell, SC, for the plaintiff, said Mr Heaphy sustained multiple injuries in the crash including seven fractures to his head, as a result of which he sustained serious damage to one eye and was also left with Bell’s Palsy.

Ms Justice O’Hanlon said: “The plaintiff was fully aware of this position he was placing himself in when he voluntarily assumed the risk in a joint enterprise, seeking out trouble which involved extreme hazards not only for the plaintiff but for others in the motor vehicle, two of whom died as a result of this accident.

Lorraine O’Sullivan SC, instructed by solicitor Jim Brooks represented the defence. Their case was that the plaintiff was negligent in travelling in a car that was bound to crash and that this likelihood was foreseeable. Also the defence was that the driver of the Mondeo was not insured and Mr Heaphy would have known this.

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