By Aoife O’Connor, on work experience with Lacey Solicitors from Rathmore Grammar School, Belfast.

Anne Doody v Niall Clarke

The circumstances of this case are that on the 26th March 2008, the plaintiff was struck in the eye by an egg thrown by a passenger in the defendant’s car. The plaintiff’s injuries led to the loss of sight in her eye and subsequent removal and artificial replacement of her eye, and she continued to suffer pain and psychological trauma.

The defendant and his passengers had the intent of ‘egging’ a house where there was a party to which they were not invited. On a stretch of road between the store where they purchased the eggs and the house, one of the passengers threw an egg from the window at the plaintiff, who was walking with two friends. The defendant and his friends drove on after the incident, unaware of the severity of the plaintiff’s injury, and ‘egged’ the house as well as several party guests.

The plaintiff believed that the defendant was vicariously liable for his passengers’ actions and directly liable for his failure to properly control his motor vehicle, violating the Road Traffic Act 1961. The plaintiff argued that the defendant knew or ought to have known that the eggs were being ‘messed with’ by the passengers. Furthermore, that the backseat window was at least partially open, and the defendant should have taken further precautions, beyond a warning, to ensure the safety of his fellow road users, for example close the window, stop the car, remove the passengers from the vehicle or order the eggs be put away.

The defendant argued that the acts were his passengers and not his own, and that the plaintiff was creating an onerous standard and that the egg throwing was not foreseeable.

Evidence in the case included statements from the plaintiff and her companions with whom she was walking at the time of the incident, the defendant and his passengers, complaints from the residents of the subsequently ‘egged’ neighbourhood, CCTV footage of the eggs being purchased and the plaintiff’s medical reports.

Mr Justice Kevin Cross delivered his verdict on 13th of November 2013. Although he accepted that the defence and his passengers all had the common purpose of ‘egging’ and had general malice intended, and that the defendant knew or ought to have known about the passengers ‘messing with’ the eggs in the backseat as well as the open window, the judge dismissed the case on the grounds that he agreed with the defence, that the plaintiff was trying to impose an onerous standard for the defendant. However had there been any evidence of discussion in the car about ‘egging’ the pedestrians, this verdict would not have been given. He concluded that he did not believe from the evidence that the defendant was in breach of the duty of care that he undoubtably owed the plaintiff.

The case is reported here: