The case concerned an appeal by Ryans Investments NI Ltd, trading as Hertz Rent-a-Car, against a Circuit Court decision awarding the seven similar sums over the accident on a roundabout in Lifford, Co Donegal, on June 28, 2011.
Five men were travelling in the hire car while four were in the second car which was hit because the other car failed to stop as it came on to the roundabout, the court heard. Seven sued over back and neck injuries.
Hertz claimed those involved knew each other through membership of republican commemoration groups called the Joseph Plunkett and Charlie D’Arcy Societies.
Mr Justice Charles Meenan said the most that was admitted by the plaintiffs was that some of the men knew each other “to see”.
Though the evidence, in some instances, concerning prior knowledge of each other, was “less than forthright, I do not believe such evidence went so far as to establish the collision was a ‘setup’,” said the judge.
Mr Justice Meenan said Hertz had also relied on an overheard phone conversation when the man who hired the car returned it to the Derry Hertz office.
That man, Gareth Feeney, with addresses in Strabane, Co Tyrone, and Middlesex, England, rang the driver of the other car, Martin Lafferty, looking for details of Mr Lafferty’s car. He opened the call with “How’re ya Marty”, claimed Hertz. Mr Feeney was also sued but did not defend the case.
Mr Justice Meenan said one would have thought, if the collision was a setup, the information sought by Mr Feeney in the call would already have been firmly fixed in his mind prior to returning the hire car.
“This information would be an essential part of the whole operation,” he said.
Hertz had also alleged the seven had considerably exaggerated the nature, extent, and effects of their various injuries, he said.
Mr Justice Meenan said they were entitled to damages. He made the following awards to the seven, all from Strabane: Kevin Darragh, aged 32, Townsend St — €8,050; Ivan Hunter, aged 48, Castlegrange — €6,550; Aaron Kelly, aged 36, Castlegrange — €5,050; Martin Feeney, aged 55, Carlton Drive — €5,050; Martin Lafferty, aged 56, Clady — €9,050; Thaddeus Deazley, aged 57, Orchard Rd — €9,550; and Neil Lafferty, aged 29, Bellscourt, Clady — €9,550.