Stay put on €302k awarded to Cork woman; smaller sum to be paid pending appeal

Stay put on €302k awarded to Cork woman; smaller sum to be paid pending appeal
Jo Ann O'Sullivan pictured outside court after a recent hearing.

A High Court judge has put a stay, pending appeal, on an award of €302,000 damages to a woman over a road traffic accident on condition, within 28 days, she gets €75,000 of the sum and her solicitors get €30,000 towards legal costs.

Mr Justice Anthony Barr said it would be "unduly harsh" to deprive Jo-Ann O'Sullivan of her entire award pending an intended appeal over the damages sum, which, due to the Covid-19 pandemic, was unlikely to be heard until near the end of 2021 or perhaps 2022.

On the other hand, it would be unjust to expect the defendant to pay over the entire sum and costs as there would be some risk it might be "difficult or possibly impossible" to recoup some or all of the award if the appeal is partially or wholly successful.

He considered it would be fair to both sides to direct payment of €75,000 of the award sum within 28 days to Ms O'Sullivan and payment on account to her solicitors of €30,000. If the legal costs turn out to be less, the defendant would recover the relevant sum, he said.

A stay applies on those orders, made against Agnieszka Brozda, Brookville Estate, Glanmire, Co Cork, pending any appeal against their terms.

The judge made the orders today following his judgment last March that Ms O'Sullivan was entitled to €302,000 damages arising from the accident.

Ms O’Sullivan (31), Laburnam Grove, Commons Road, Blackpool, Cork, sued over the accident on August 27th, 2016 when a car driven by Ms Brozda collided with the rear of a car in which Ms O’Sullivan was a passenger.

Liability was accepted by Ms Brozda and the case was for assessment of damages only.

In his March judgment, Mr Justice Barr said Ms O’Sullivan, who worked in the human resources department of KBC in Dublin at the time, underwent serious surgery on her neck and skull in June 2016 as a result of striking her head against an electricity box in November 2015 while straightening up as she retrieved mail from her post box.

She claimed the earlier surgery meant the soft tissue injuries to her neck and shoulders from the road accident were considerably worse than would have been the case, she had suffered post traumatic stress disorder and was unable to work since 2016.

Ms Brozda denied Ms O’Sullivan was injured to the extent claimed or there was serious exacerbation of her post operative condition as a result a "minor" impact. It cost just €249 to repair the car Ms O’Sullivan was travelling in, the defence said.

Mr Justice Barr said the only evidence of the actual impact was from Ms O’Sullivan who said she felt her head being propelled forward then backwards and struck her head against the headrest.

The judge did not think she had been “deliberately catastrophising” her injuries or symptoms and accepted evidence of her GP she was a well motivated person keen to get back to a normal life and return to work.

He found she has suffered constant and at times severe pain to her neck, shoulders and lower back, along with knee pain, as a result of the accident and accepted she has been unfit for work since.

He awarded €302,445, including €146,000 general damages to date and into the future and €138,795 for loss of earnings to date and for the next two years.

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