Woman's claim over bus crash with 'dumb American' dismissed
The High Court has refused to award damages to a woman who sued after a stationary bus in which she was a passenger was hit by a rented car driven by a tourist.
The ruling, by Mr Justice Paul Butler, is regarded as significant for insurers running "minimal-impact" defences to such claims.
The Eurocar rental car company, through its insurer AIG, admitted negligence over the incident on June 18, 2013, but argued Jennifer Ashe was not hurt and was not entitled to any damages. She insisted she suffered back and other injuries which persist.
Her case was against Executive Trust Ltd, trading as Eurocar, with registered offices at Santry, Dublin, and Dublin Bus but the latter was indemnified by AIG.
In his ruling, after a two-day hearing last week, Mr Justice Butler said he had no doubt Ms Ashe (33), a mother-of-three, of Lansdowne Gate Apartments, Dublin 12, was suffering an injury and suffering to "quite an extraordinary degree" but the question in the case was what had caused that.
On the balance of probabilities and the evidence, he did not accept her injury was due to the incident because of engineering and other evidence indicating the bus, weighing a minimum 20 tonnes, did not move forward as a result of the impact with the car, weighing a maximum 1.7 tonnes.
On the engineering evidence, the bus suffered a "glancing blow" and "absolutely no movement" could occur at impact speed and on that basis he dismissed the claim.
On the application of Fergus O'Hagan SC, instructed by Catherine Molloy of Pembroke Solicitors, for the defence, he also awarded costs against Ms Ashe. During the hearing, the judge was told the cost of repairing the right rear corner of the bus was €509 and the cost of repairing the Hyundai was around the same or more because the suspension and steering were damaged.
He also heard the car driver and his four-year-old son came on to the bus immediately after the incident.
The driver described himself as a "dumb American", apologised and asked if everyone was OK. The bus driver said they were and both men exchanged insurance details. The car driver estimated he was driving at 10kph at the time. There was no CCTV footage of the incident.
In his ruling, the judge said Ms Ashe had called no engineering evidence while the defence had, and photos showed the damage to the bus was to its rear outside corner. The damage to the car was to the side panel at the nearside front wheel.
The car lights were undamaged so it appeared there was a "glancing blow", as the defence engineer believed.
The question was whether the blow caused the bus to move forward. Ms Ashe and her partner said it did but their accounts were different regarding impact and the number of people on the vehicle.
The only claimant arising out of the incident was Ms Ashe.