The owners of the Douglas Village shopping centre in Cork are suing for more than €30m in damages after an allegedly defective Opel Zafira car went on fire in the centre's car park forcing it to remain shut since August 31 last year.
The centre is not expected to reopen until autumn 2020 at the earliest, the Commercial Court has been told. Mr Justice David Barniville has agreed to fast-track the case against four entities in that court.
Avoncore Ltd and Canmont Ltd, trading as the Douglas Village Shopping Centre are taking cases against Leeson Motors Ltd, which allegedly distributed and sold an Opel Zafira B Model car, with a 06 C registration, manufactured and designed by another defendant - Adam Opel GmbH, based in Germany.
The third defendant is Opel Automobile GmbH which, since Groupe PSA acquired the Opel brand in 2017, has been involved in continuing any recall campaigns including various recalls in respect of Zafira B models.
Vauxhall Motors Ltd in the UK is also being sued. It is claimed that company was responsible for the conduct and management of recalls of the Zafira B vehicles there and had provided direction to and/or liaised with Leeson Motors Ltd on recalls conducted here.
The costs of demolition and rebuilding of the car park, associated business interruption and other aspects of repair are expected to exceed €30m and the calculation of the amount for loss and damage suffered is continuing, the owners say.
The plaintiffs, represented by Brian Kennedy, allege, at the time of the fire incident, the Opel Zafira car was owned by Mohsen Al Khafagy, of Lehenaghmore, Cork, having been purchased by her in Cork about June 2014.
It is claimed Ms Al Khafagy, having parked in the car park of the centre, was about to get out of the car to go shopping when she noted smoke at the front exterior of the car. It is claimed the car went on fire, causing a "major conflagration", resulting in "immense damage" to the centre.
The plaintiffs allege the fire originated in and/or was caused by the defective manufacture of the car, in particular its HVAC system.
It is alleged the severe resulting damage from the fire was caused and/or occasioned by the negligence and/or breach of duty of the defendants in and about the design and manufacture of the car; in/or about the design and implementation of the recall of Opel Zafiras; and/or in and about failure to inform Mrs Al Khafagy of the danger, of which they were aware or ought to have been aware, which the car posed to her and her family and to third parties such as the plaintiffs.
The case includes a claim for aggravated and/or exemplary damages on grounds they allegedly knew and/or recklessly exposed Mrs Al Khafagy and members of the public and property owners to a risk of fire and fire damage.
A target date of November 12 has been set for the re-opening of the centre.
Since the shopping centre closed, the village has been down approximately 1,000 car parking spaces, while 46 retail units were out of action, including the anchor tenant, retail giant Tesco and Marks and Spencer.
Hopes that the centre would re-open this summer were dashed by the Covid-19 pandemic which forced the closure of construction sites.
With the recent easing of restrictions, the main contractors, PJ Hegarty and Sons, resumed work at the Douglas site on May 18.
It has said the location of the blaze was such that it caused maximum disruption, despite damaging less than 3% of the complex, with 12% having to be re-built.
“It seems like a small area but it is at the heart of the building and all the management systems are in that zone,” said shopping centre manager Bartosz Mieszala last month.
This included the ESB substation which powered every single retail unit, which means every unit has to be rewired.