A CIRCUIT Court Judge dismissed an insurance claim by a city woman who said that she received neck, shoulder and back injuries as a result of being rear-ended by a car that had already been struck by another car, which was driven by a Waterford City & County Councillor.
Natasha Cleary (41) from Ard Na Gréine was taking an action against Vanessa Bolger and Fine Gael Councillor John Cummins over an incident that happened on Ashe Road on January 6, 2015.
The court heard that on the day in question, John Cummins was driving down Mattie’s Hill when a cat ran out in front of his Ford Focus.
He told the court that he was slowing down to meet a line of traffic on Ashe Road when he braked suddenly and the car “skidded forward slightly”, and hit the back of Vanessa Bolger’s car. The court heard that Mr Cummins immediately accepted responsibility for the accident and apologised to Ms Bolger.
The plaintiff, Ms Cleary, said that she “felt a bang” and heard her son ask “what was that bang, Mam” before getting out of the car. She said that Vanessa Bolger asked her if she hit her, to which Natasha Cleary said that she did.
Ms Bolger told the court that she was “certain” that she did not hit Ms Cleary’s car and said that she was “surprised” to see her getting out of her car to assess damage “that wasn’t there”. Ms Bolger said that there was no visible damage to the front of her Renault Clio or the back of Ms Cleary’s Honda Accord.
Two vehicle assessors spoke in court, a Mr Fogarty on behalf of Ms Cleary and a Mr Clohessy on behalf of Ms Bolger and Mr Cummins.
Mr Fogarty, who inspected the Honda Accord on April 10, 2015, said that there was a slight misalignment between the boot and the bumper and a puncture mark on the rear bumper which “could have been caused by a rear end collision”.
Mr Clohessy, who inspected the cars eight days after the incident, said that the damage to the back of the Honda was more consistent with “something falling from inside the boot” and that there was “no consistency” between the marks on both vehicles.
Ms Cleary’s partner of 26 years, Martin Grant, said that they received a quote of €1,127 for repairs to the car, which he ended up selling to another family member for €7,000. It was the “best car we ever had” he said.
Counsel for the defence, Conor Roberts, suggested to Ms Cleary that she “didn’t feel a bang” but actually “heard a bang and reacted”.
He also suggested that she exaggerated her injuries and in multiple visits to a GP in 2015 she “never mentioned” her shoulder, which she claimed suffered the most damage from the “crash”.
Garda Kieran Casey of Waterford Garda Station said that he attended the scene of the accident and observed damage to the front of Mr Cummins’ car, the back of Ms Bolger’s car, but “no damage” to the front of her car and the back of Ms Cleary’s.
Judge Hutton dismissed the case, saying that there was “no evidence of damage or debris at the scene” and “no airbags were deployed in the plaintiff’s car”, which “cast doubt” over Ms Cleary’s claim.
She said that she was “not satisfied that Ms Cleary discharged the burden of proof in relation to establishing that the accident happened the way that she said it did”.
After the case, a spokesperson for the defendant’s insurers, Liberty Insurance, spoke to the Waterford News & Star.
“We are very pleased with the outcome of this case and Liberty Insurance will continue to defend all claims that we believe are unfounded and of questionable merit,” the spokesperson said.