A motorist hit by a Garda car at a traffic light junction had to fork out €330 for a fire brigade to attend the scene.
Taxi driver, Patrick Cooke of Mountshannon Road, Lisnagry, sued the Garda commissioner and the driver of a Garda car over injuries he sustained in the accident.
Mr Cooke, 57, was driving a couple who were heading out for an evening meal on March 13, 2013. As he proceeded through a green light at the junction of Athlunkard St and Island Rd, he was struck by a Garda car.
Firefighters had to cut through the roof of his taxi to free him and his two passengers. They were taken to University Hospital Limerick.
The two passengers gave corroborative evidence that the patrol car was moving at the time of impact.
Garda evidence was given that the driver of the patrol car proceeded with caution through the junction and was stopped when the taxi struck the patrol car. The siren and flashing lights were on.
Judge Gerald Keys said Garda cars, ambulances and other emergency service vehicles do not have an automatic right to run a red traffic light — even with sirens and flashing lights activated.
“They can go through a red light if they so choose, but they have to take the consequences if another road user is on the green light observing the rules of the road. They can do so as long as they don’t endanger another road user. And that’s laid down in the Road Traffic Acts,” the judge said.
Lorcan Connolly, counsel for Mr Cooke, said the Garda car came into the path of the taxi, giving Mr Cooke no chance and causing the collision.
Outlining his injuries, Mr Cooke said he can no longer play golf or do the garden. Due to ongoing pain in his lower back, he can no longer go on long walks or attend matches if he has to stand. His quality of life has completely changed. While he still works, he has to take a break from the wheel every hour. As well as constant pain, his sleep pattern has been affected. An MRI scan showed degenerative change to his lower back.
Judge Keys said whether the patrol car was moving or stopped, it still presented itself in the path of the taxi and it would be unduly harsh to penalise the taxi on grounds of contributory negligence: “This was a severe impact and the plaintiff had to be assisted from his vehicle, by virtue of the fire brigade representatives cutting off the roof of the car to get him out.”
Judge Keys awarded general damages of €45,000 and special damages of €5,080 — totalling €50,080 and costs.
On the application of Michael McNamara, counsel for the garda driver and the commissioner, Judge Keys put a stay on the award in the event of an appeal.
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