The following blog concerns the case of Carr v Olan & Doran [2012] IEHC 59 is authored by Adam Shaw. The case is reported here

Adam has been on work experience at Lacey Solicitors from Portora Royal School Enniskillen. Portoras past pupils include Oscar Wilde and Samuel Beckett, both famous past bloggers.

Aggressive driving sparks ‘road rage’ catastrophe! Plaintiff’s personal injury claim dismissed by Mr Justice Hogan in High Court hearing held on 15th March 2012.

The plaintiff Mr Carr, a keen motorcyclist and musician, suffered extensive injuries as a result of a dispute with another road user. The incident unfolded at midday on Tuesday 22nd January 2008, as the plaintiff made a chance encounter with the first defendant on a major roundabout. Mixed claims from both parties suggest careless driving from the other which resulted in evasive action required to avoid a collision. However, following both the plaintiff and the first defendant leaving the roundabout at their respective exits, the plaintiff took the decision to turn around his motorcycle and head in pursuit of the first defendant. Under these circumstances, one can only speculate why the plaintiff took such evasive action, despite already having given the defendant a few hand gestures to remember whilst at the roundabout!

That aside, evidence suggests, the plaintiff, foot to the floor, caught up with the first defendant who was already 250 metres in the opposite direction. Yet despite two lanes of oncoming traffic on the other side of the road, the plaintiff maintained pursuit of the first defendant and allegedly ‘thumped’ the driver’s window, as described by a witness, and banged on the wing mirror.

What happened next is how the accident occurred. As found by Mr Justice Hogan, in an attempt by the defendant to recoil away from the direction of the blow to the window of the car, the defendant may have inadvertently veered right in the heat of the moment. Evidence gathered from the Gardai accident report show evident damage to the right hand side of the defendant’s vehicle which strongly suggests that the defendant’s vehicle came into contact with the plaintiff’s motorcycle, causing it to bank and spin out of control.

Unfortunate was the second defendant, who was in an oncoming lane of traffic when the plaintiff’s motorcycle struck her car. In favour of the first defendant, she perhaps provided the most accurate witness account. She stated how prior to the accident there were no signs of aggression from the first defendant towards the plaintiff whilst driving. The first defendant explained himself that; at the time he was more confused and, indeed, scared by the sudden sequence of events. Therefore, conclusions can be drawn, as indeed like that of Mr Justice Gerard, that the defendant did not intentionally steer into the motorcycle and orchestrate the accident in an act of aggression.

Further to the defendant’s rescue came the court’s decision to use inter alia, the doctrine of ex turpi causa non oritur actio. In layman’s terms, this meaning that; on the assumption that the plaintiff did cross the constant white lines on the road, marginally or not, when pursuit of the defendant, then he was in breach of the Road Safety Act. This would mean the defendant would no longer have liability for the plaintiff’s sustained injuries as the plaintiff was already in breach of the law in the first place and is no longer, by law, entitled to compensation for his personal injuries.

All this taken into account, the court ruled that the plaintiff’s claims for personal injuries, which included a permanent loss of use in one arm, would be dismissed.

Finally, a long story cut short; the plaintiff displayed an uncharacteristic, sightless act of ‘road rage’ where the blame could only be laid firmly at his doorstep. As for the first and second defendants, their intentions were of the prevention of any such incident to occur.

Adam Shaw