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The Courts Role In Disentangling The Truth In Personal Injury Actions – Personal Injury



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The recent High Court decision of Ms Justice Niamh
Hyland 1 reiterates it is not a matter for a
Court to “disentangle” a plaintiff’s claim when
it has become entangled due to lies and misrepresentations by the
plaintiff. The burden of proof is on a plaintiff to prove that an
accident caused or contributed to an injury.

Tomás McDonagh of RDJ LLP, together with Damien Higgins
SC and Niall Flynn BL successfully acted for the defendants on the
instructions of a large Insurer in the defence of the personal
injury proceedings issued by the plaintiff.

Facts

The plaintiff issued Circuit Court proceedings seeking damages
for personal injury arising from a road traffic accident on 25
March 2015 when the vehicle he was a front seat passenger in, was
impacted to the rear by the defendant’s truck at traffic
lights when it rolled into the back of the vehicle. The plaintiff
was involved in a prior accident on 18 March 2015 when the vehicle
he was driving rear ended a vehicle on a motorway at 120km/hr and
in which his wife, brother and two children made claims for
personal injury. The plaintiff was also involved in a subsequent
accident on 23 July 2015 when his vehicle was hit by another
vehicle on the Quays in Dublin causing his vehicle to spin
around.

Circuit Court

The proceedings were initially commenced in the Circuit Court
and the plaintiff’s case was dismissed pursuant to Section 26
of the Civil Liability and Coutts Act 2004 by Judge Fergus on 27
November 2020 when the plaintiff had legal representation. The
plaintiff appealed the decision without legal representation.

The Law

The Court referred to the Supreme Court decision
in Vesey v Bus Eireann2 where the
Court concluded that it was not the responsibility of the trial
Judge to “disentangle” the plaintiff’s case when
it has become entangled as a result of lies and misrepresentation.
The Court held that it could not disentangle the truth and it would
only be able to speculate how an accident caused or contributed to
an injury.

In addition, the Court also relied on Section 26 of the Civil
Liability and Courts Act 2004. In essence Section 26 of the Civil
Liability and Courts Act 2004 provides for a dismissal of the
plaintiff’s claim either where a plaintiff knowingly gives
false or misleading evidence or where the Court is satisfied that a
person has sworn an affidavit under s.14 of the same Act that is
false or misleading in any material respect. It is clear from the
legislation the section is mandatory in nature and the section
obliges the defendant to establish the plaintiff gave evidence or
provided information knowing it was false or misleading.

Judgement

Counsel on behalf of the defendants applied to strike out the
plaintiff’s case on the basis:-

  1. The plaintiff had not established a prima facie case and failed
    to discharge the burden of proof on him pursuant to Vesey
    v Bus Eireann
     3

  2. The plaintiff had not disclosed two other accidents giving
    false replies, swearing a false Affidavit and causing doctors to
    give misleading evidence and the Court was obliged to dismiss the
    plaintiff’s case pursuant to Section 26 of the Civil
    Liability and Courts Act 2004.

The Court considered the accidents the plaintiff was involved in
and came to the conclusion that the prior accident on 18 March 2015
was a serious accident and the impact must have been significant
with the plaintiff attending his GP on the day of the accident and
Hospital three days later. The plaintiff’s subsequent
accident on 23 July 2015 also required the plaintiff to attend his
GP. Neither accident was mentioned in the plaintiff’s
proceedings and they were not disclosed in replies to particulars.
The Court also reviewed the medical reports, and it was only after
June 2019 did the plaintiff’s medical reports refer to the
other accidents. This was subsequent to the plaintiff swearing an
Affidavit of Discovery and making discovery of medical records
which disclosed reference to the other accidents.

The Court held the plaintiff constantly ignored the other
accidents in his proceedings and in his interaction with medical
practitioners. The Court considered had the plaintiff disclosed the
other accidents then it was likely medical evidence could have
dealt with the three different accidents and the contribution of
each accident to the injuries sustained. Without such medical
evidence the Court could not disentangle the truth and the Court
would only be able to speculate how the accident the subject of the
proceedings caused or contributed to the plaintiff’s injuries
particularly where the plaintiff’s other accidents occurred
close in time. While the plaintiff believed that the accident the
subject of the proceedings caused his injuries, the Court would not
award damages based on a belief and concluded the plaintiff failed
to discharge the burden of proof that the injury he alleged was
caused or contributed to by the accident the subject of the
proceedings.

The Court also considered Section 26 of the Civil Liability and
Courts Act 2004 and dismissed the plaintiff’s claim pursuant
to Section 26(1) of the Act in circumstances that the
plaintiff’s replies to particulars were incorrect and the
plaintiff must have known that his first medical report was
incomplete. Also, as the Affidavit of Verification in respect of
Replies to particulars was also incorrect and the plaintiff must
have known that was the case, the Court dismissed the case pursuant
to Section 26(2) of the Act.

The Court therefore dismissed the plaintiff’s case.

Conclusion

The decision of Ms Justice Hyland in the High Court is a
reminder of the Courts role in adjudicating on proceedings in
personal injuries actions which have been entangled due to a
plaintiff’s lies and misrepresentations. The burden of proof
rests with the plaintiff to prove his injury was caused or
contributed by the accident. Where a plaintiff embarks on a course
of lies and misrepresentations, not only could the
plaintiff’s claim be dismissed pursuant to Section 26 of the
Civil Liability and Courts Act 2004, the plaintiff may also not be
able to discharge the burden of proof, as it is not for the Court
to disentangle the truth. The Court requires evidence to base an
evaluation of how an accident caused or contributed to the injury
the plaintiff’s alleges they sustained. This cannot be
available to a Court when the plaintiff was not truthful in his
pleadings and interaction with medical practitioners.

Footnotes

1 Khalid -v- Davis & Anor [2022] IEHC 519 
https://www.courts.ie/acc/alfresco/644cba13-f33d-48a5-942e-8a28bd310832/2022_IEHC_519.pdf/pdf#view=fitH

2 [2001] IESC 93

3 [2001] IESC 93

The content of this article is intended to provide a general
guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought
about your specific circumstances.

POPULAR ARTICLES ON: Litigation, Mediation & Arbitration from Ireland

Case Law Updates – August 2022

Barton Legal

This was an application before Mrs Justice Jefford, for early specific disclosure from the Defendant; Broadway Malyan Limited (“BM”).



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