A teenager injured when a car driven by a 17-year-old friend crashed with what a judge called “terrifying force” is to receive €100,000 in damages.
The driver, a Leaving Cert student, got the car two weeks previously as a present from his parents and lost his life in the crash at Drumkeerin, Co Leitrim.
Mr Justice Michael Moriarty said the court could not ignore that the accident was an “appalling tragedy” in which John Williams, of Derrylustia, Drumkeerin, Co Leitrim, died.
The accident occurred just before Christmas in 2008 as five teenagers in two cars went for a “spin” outside Drumkeerin.
Through her mother, Leah McVeigh, now aged 20, sued the dead man’s insurance company, Quinn Direct Insurance, and the driver of the other car, Darragh Flynn, aged 23, of Mountain View, Cartron, Loughallen, Co Roscommon, as a result of the accident on Dec 23, 2008.
The case was settled for €100,000 and was before the High Court on the issue of who was liable for the damages.
It was claimed the collision was caused by the negligence and breach of duty of Mr Williams and Mr Flynn. It was claimed they were driving in a dangerous manner and at excessive speed.
Ms McVeigh suffered a head injury, a fracture of the left clavicle and post-traumatic stress disorder as a result of the accident.
Mr Flynn denied the claims and said his driving did not play any part in the accident. He said liability lay with Mr Williams. The insurance company denied his claims.
Mr Justice Moriarty said the five young people had been enjoying themselves harmlessly when it was decided to go for a spin, which culminated in the tragic death of Mr Williams.
The judge said he found the evidence of Mr Flynn to be self-serving. In contrast, he said, Fern Skelton, a passenger in Mr Flynn’s car, was extremely upset over the tragic demise of a friend. This young woman, the judge said, had been firm in stating an inherently dangerous racing operation had been discussed. Mr Justice Moriarty said Mr Flynn, who was the more experienced driver, was entirely privy to that discussion to embark on “this hair-raising process”.
Unfortunately, the judge said, the deceased made a particularly dangerous and fast overtaking as he approached the village, went over the grass verge and out of control, and crashed into a parked lorry with a terrifying force.
Finding negligence to the degree of 22.5% against Mr Flynn, Mr Justice Moriarty said Mr Flynn is liable to pay €22,500 of the damages, with the insurance company has to pay the balance of €77,500.
In evidence, Ms Skelton, who was aged 16 at the time of the accident, said she had been a passenger in Mr Flynn’s car. She said that, during the 4km journey, each vehicle had overtaken the other.
She said she was surprised they were being overtaken by Mr Williams as they came in to Drumkeerin and she had waved to Ms McVeigh. Cross-examined by counsel for the insurance company, Ms Skelton agreed that Mr Williams overtook Mr Flynn’s car as he was trying to win a race.