ONE WOULD WANT to be blind not to see that there was a hand orchestrating a number of accidents in which four people had claimed a joint purse of €240,000 damages against an insurance company, a judge said today.
“These accidents were planned…and all four plaintiffs were willing participants in them and party to a fraud,” Circuit Court President, Mr Justice Raymond Groarke, said when throwing out all of the claims that he heard over three days last month.
Judge Groarke told Paul Murray SC, counsel for Zurich Insurance which defended all cases, that 41-year-old undertaker and part-time airport driver Peter Slattery would be entirely comfortable to engage in a scam of fraudulent claims arising from set-up accidents.
He had “but a passing familiarity with the truth” and “none of his evidence was credible”.
In one of four €60,000 damages claims Slattery, of Charlemont, Griffith Avenue, Dublin 9, had sued his girlfriend Belinda McLoughlin and Zurich for damages for neck and back injuries arising from a rear-ending crash.
McLoughlin, of Holywell Crescent North, Swords, Co Dublin, was a joint defendant with Zurich in all of the four claims involving separate accidents. She had admitted liability in all but took no part in any of the cases.
Samantha Byrne (28) of Suncroft Drive, Tallaght (neck injuries) and her sister Jessica Byrne (25) of Bawnlea Avenue, Jobstown, Tallaght, (back injuries) also sued McLoughlin and Zurich for €60,000 each for damages arising out of a rear-ending of their car by McLoughlin at Fortunestown Road on 12 February 2015.
In a fourth rear-ending seven months earlier and again admittedly caused by McLoughlin on 21 July 2014, Ian Doyle (33) of Academy Buildings, Parkwest, Dublin 12, a mechanic and part-time car salesman, sued McLoughlin for €60,000 damages for neck and lower back injuries.
The court heard that Slattery had been an injured passenger in his partner McLoughlin’s car which had rear-ended the car in which Ian Doyle was a passenger.
Judge Groarke in his reserved judgment, also named 16 others as people who had made claims, not all before his court.
He said Slattery had been common to five of them and his girlfriend McLoughlin had been party to three of them.
None of the accidents before the court had been reported to gardaí and no formal Garda investigation had been carried out in any of them and all involved minimal damage.
The judge said it was inescapable from the evidence that Slattery had adduced or caused to be adduced misleading evidence and had done so knowing it to be misleading. He saw no injustice in dismissing his case.
Ian Doyle, the judge said, had lied to the court with the purpose of concealing his true relationship with two female claimants whom he clearly knew very well and had socialised with. He had also lied when denying knowing Samantha Byrne and “his credibility, too, is in tatters”.
Judge Groarke said Jessica Byrne had impressed him in the witness box but had lost confidence when cross-examined by Mr Murray about her attendance on a cruise with all of the plaintiffs in much earlier road traffic claims. Her sister Samantha had done herself no favours in the manner in which she had sought to conceal a previous accident and injuries.
“Coincidences happen in life but the evidence in this case, which discloses coincidences of a most astonishing nature, really push the explanation of coincidence off the cliff,” Judge Groarke said.
“These accidents were planned and fraud is the rational and cogent conclusion to be drawn and I am satisfied that all four plaintiffs were willing participants in these accidents. All are party to fraud and I dismiss thei actions,” Judge Groarke said.
Mr Murray, who appeared with solicitors DAC Beachcroft for Zurich, was awarded costs, likely to run to €20,000 in each case, against all four plaintiffs.