Bicycle courier awarded €30k in personal injury claim after road traffic accident with Dublin taxi driver
The High Court awarded €30,000 in general damages for injuries sustained by a cyclist as the result of a road traffic accident involving a taxi, while rejecting a majority of the cyclist’s claim for special damages.
The personal injury claim was brought by a bicycle courier against a taxi driver for damages arising as a result of the accident at Custom House Quay, Dublin in March 2015, which the court held was caused by the taxi driver’s negligence.
Both the cyclist, Mr Rotimi Omotayo, and taxi driver, Mr Kenneth Griffin, agreed that ‘immediately before the accident there were a number of cars stopped in the lane for ordinary traffic due to the red light’ however they disagreed on the events thereafter.
Mr Omotayo was cycling on the eastbound carriageway close to the continuous white line of the hatched markings before he attempted to swerve to avoid a collision with Mr Griffin’s car.
The positioning of Mr Omotayo relative to Mr Griffin’s car and the position of the car relative to the hatched markings immediately after the accident was the subject of some dispute.
Gardaí ‘were not called to the scene at the time but the accident circumstances were subsequently investigated by Garda Stephen Emmett who gave evidence at the trial’. He visited the scene and subsequently prepared a sketch map (not to scale) on the basis of ‘information he had received from witnesses including the parties’. The Garda abstract of the investigation, including witness statements and the aforementioned map were admitted in evidence.
Stephen Dawson, was called as a witness on behalf of Mr Griffin. He had his back to the river at the moment of impact, but turned around and went to lend assistance upon hearing a commotion.
Mr Dawson gave evidence that Mr Omotayo was ‘positioned more to the right hand side of the car after the accident than to the front of it, that the angle of the car was slight rather than acute, and that the off-side front wheel was just touching the continuous white line of the hatched markings’.
Evidence was also given on behalf of Mr Omotayo by a Mr Meleady who was also employed as a courier. At the time of the accident he was proceeding in the same direction as Mr Omotayo, and gave evidence that the vehicle was at a much more significant and acute angle than that suggested by Mr Griffin and Mr Dawson.
Two engineers, Tony O’Keeffe and Alan Conlon, gave evidence that if the vehicle was at the more acute angle suggested by Mr Omotayo and Mr Meleady rather than that suggested by Mr Griffin and Mr Dawson at the moment of impact, and if the bike had sustained damage of the nature suggested by Mr Omotayo, then they would have expected corresponding damage to have been caused to the driver’s side area of the car. As it was, the only objective evidence of damage to Mr Griffin’s vehicle was to the door glass mirror.
Justice Barton stated that the only objective evidence of damage to Mr Griffin’s vehicle was to the door glass mirror, therefore ‘the engineering evidence established that that was more consistent with a glancing blow probably caused by the handle bars of the bike as it struck the door mirror’. Moreover, this was consistent with a less acute angle of Mr Griffin’s vehicle being presented to Mr Omotayo’s bicycle at the moment of impact.
Justice Barton was satisfied that the most probable explanation for the cause of the accident was that Mr Griffin pulled out from a stationary position into the path of Mr Omotayo - albeit not at as an acute an angle as he had suggested.
There was an account in the engineering report of Mr Conlon which suggested that Mr Omotayo had been ‘cycling in the hatched markings prior to the accident’ – had that been so it would have been of some significance having regard to the prohibition on traffic entering the area of hatched markings provided by Regulation 26 of the Road Traffic (Traffic and Parking) Regulations 1997. However, according to his consultation notes produced in evidence, Mr Omotayo had not in fact made such a statement.
Having regard to the location of his intended delivery on the river side of the Quay, Mr Omotayo was entitled to cycle where he did in the outside lane. He had the right of way and in the circumstances he was sufficiently close to Mr Griffin so as to give rise to a duty of care.
In the event, Mr Griffin was totally unaware of Mr Omotayo’s presence until the accident occurred. Accordingly, he failed to keep a proper look out before he executed his manoeuvre and of which there was no evidence of an indication. Pulling out into the path of Mr Omotayo in these circumstances was negligent.
Therefore, having regard to all of the evidence and the findings made, the Court was satisfied that there was no negligence on the part of Mr Omotayo and full liability for the accident rested with Mr Griffin.
General and special damages
Considering the content of medical reports, and the surveillance evidence of Mr Omotayo’s abilities as of April 2016, Justice Barton was satisfied that Mr Omotayo had recovered from his injuries.
Having had regard to the book of quantum, which Justice Barton stated was ‘now hopelessly out of date and… of little assistance’ and applying the principals of Tort law to the assessment of general damages, the Court awarded Mr Omotayo €30,000.
In relation to special damages, Mr Omotayo brought a claim for loss of earnings of €375 per week from the date of the accident until the end of June 2015. Rejecting this claim, Justice Barton was not satisfied that there was sufficient proof before the Court – however ‘other items of special damage which been properly vouched and agreed’ were allowed.