Supreme Court rejects quarry owner's appeal over €453k award to man whose foot was crushed

By Ann O'Loughlin

A fresh appeal over an award of €453,000 to a man who lost half his foot when it was crushed by the metal wheel track of a rock-handling machine has been denied.

The Supreme Court has rejected an application for a further appeal by one of the owners of the quarry where the accident occurred in June 2003.

In 2015, David McLaughlin, who in 2003 was a 17-year-old employee of McDaid Quarries of Burnfoot in Donegal, was awarded €453,000 by the High Court against the quarry company, its owners Charles and Michael McDaid, and against a third brother, Damien McDaid, who drove the injured man to hospital. Mr McLaughlin later moved to the USA.

The McDaids and the company appealed that decision.

Last January, the Court of Appeal rejected it and Charles McDaid sought a further appeal.

The Supreme Court, in a written determination, has refused him leave to appeal saying he had not raised a point of general public importance or that it was in the interests of justice to have matters he raised further determined.

The major ground of the appeal related to the fact that Mr McLaughlin made a false statement in his claim for compensation.

In the original claim, Mr McLaughlin said a lorry had run over his foot rather than the rock machine.

However, when the case went ahead, Mr McLaughlin told the truth, the trial judge, Mr Justice Hanna said.

Mr Justice Hanna was satisfied Michael and Charlie McDaid had "created and promulgated" an entirely false and implausible story that a lorry had run over his foot so they could put in a fraudulent claim to an insurance company.

He also did not believe the evidence of Damien McDaid who claimed the false story was agreed between him and Mr McLaughlin as they drove to Altnegelvin Hospital in Derry where doctors saved the teenager from a life-threatening injury but had to amputate half of his right foot.

The judge said it would be "a grotesque injustice if the authors of a bogus claim" could rely on the law governing false claims having themselves created "a web of deceit designed to shelter them from their obligations under law".

He did not believe Mr McLaughlin had been in any state to "hatch such a story" as he was being driven to hospital because he was in huge distress, losing a lot of blood and going in an out of consciousness.

He further found Mr McLaughlin was a vulnerable person with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. He was pressured to go along with the story in particular because of the "evident hold" Charlie McDaid held over him, the judge said.

In their Court of appeal case, the McDaids argued the case should be dismissed under Section 26 of the 2004 Civil Liability Act which gave the courts power to strike out claims based on false and misleading evidence. This point has also been raised in the High Court but Mr Justice Hanna rejected it.

In its judgment, the Court of Appeal said Mr Justice Hanna was correct.

Mr Justice Hanna's findings of fact, principally based on his assessment of the credibility of witnesses and the evidence before the court, cannot be disturbed, the appeal court said.

The judge's refusal to dismiss on the basis of the false evidence argument was the proper exercise of his discretion. When taken together with what was before the court, it provided "good and sufficient reason" to support the decision that it would have been unjust to dismiss the case, the Court of Appeal also said.

In its determination refusing another appeal, the Supreme Court said case law in relation to Section 26 of the Civil Liability Act demonstrates that an action where there is a false statement should "not be dismissed if such a step would create an injustice".

The High Court, having considered the totality of the evidence, was of such a view and the Court of Appeal had found this was within jurisdiction, it said.

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