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Publicans are cleared over fatal car crash

TWO publicans who served drink to a man later involved in a fatal crash are not liable for damages over the collision, the High Court ruled.

John Connolly (79) of Kinlough, Leitrim, was served between five and six pints of beer at the Diamond Bar, Tullaghan, Leitrim, before he drove on the wrong side of the road, hitting another vehicle on the afternoon of March 31, 2005. He and a passenger in the other car died.

His estate claimed it should be entitled to an indemnity, or a contribution, from pub proprietors Seamus and Concepta Kelly, for a €275,000 damages settlement against the estate by the driver of the other vehicle.

Mr Justice Kevin Feeney dismissed the claim, saying the publicans did not owe a duty of care to Mr Connolly.

It was not established that Mr Connolly was drunk within the meaning of the Intoxicating Liquor Act 2003 and there was no legal basis for stopping him from driving, the judge said.

Such an argument was impractical and would place an impossible burden on publicans, who would have to question all of their customers on a recurring basis, the judge said.



Assault

The duty of care the Connolly estate sought to impose on the Kellys included an obligation on publicans to restrain, assault or even falsely imprison persons they believed to be unfit to drive, he said. This would result in the public committing a criminal act, he added.

Mr Connolly, of Kinlough, Leitrim, and Anne McSorley, of Antrim Road, Belfast, died in the collision on the main Sligo/Bundoran Road. Mr McSorley was seen driving in an erratic manner and post-mortem results showed he was about three times over the drink-driving limit.

The driver of the other car, Ms McSorley's mother, Mary Flanagan, Oakland Road, Omagh, Tyrone, who was seriously injured in the accident, secured a €275,000 settlement against the estate of Mr Connolly, alleging negligence and breach of duty of care.

Mr Connolly's estate then sued the Kellys seeking an indemnity or contribution towards that settlement.

The Kellys denied any liability and contended Mr Connolly was totally to blame for the accident.

hnews@herald.ie