Learner driver who crashed three times loses appeal over third accident

Kellie Quinlivan's action over the oil spill was one of three she took over road crashes in the last 12 years, and the first in which she lost.
Learner driver who crashed three times loses appeal over third accident

High Court reporters

An unaccompanied learner driver who claimed she crashed because of an oil spill on a road has lost an appeal against a High Court decision rejecting her claim for compensation.

Kellie Quinlivan's action over the oil spill was one of three she took over road accidents in the last 12 years, and the first in which she lost.

The 30-year-old care assistant from Assumption Park, Roscrea, Co Tipperary secured €20,000 over a 2010 accident and €50,000 over a 2018 accident. In both, she sustained soft tissue injuries.

The oil spill accident, in which he sustained soft tissue injuries to her back, happened on July 6th, 2015, as she was on her way to a client.

As she approached a bend before a bridge on the Borris-in Ossory to Rathdowney Road, she said her car skidded on a diesel spillage and hit the bridge.

She sued the Motor Insurers Bureau of Ireland (MIBI), which compensates victims of uninsured and untraced drivers, claiming that the spill was caused by the negligence of an unidentified driver. The MIBI denied her claims.

Driving unaccompanied

In July last year, High Court judge Michael Twomey dismissed her action saying she had not established, on the balance of probabilities, that the oil spill was the cause of the accident. He preferred the evidence of the investigating garda who said the oil spill was not on her side of the road, but on the opposite side.

The judge also had “misgivings” about the reliability of Ms Quinlivan’s memory for reasons including that she told an MIBI doctor, shortly before the oil spill case hearing, that she had no previous accidents.

She appealed claiming, among other things, the High Court failed to take into account the evidence of Ms Quinlivan's engineering expert, Michael Fogarty, failed to give proper weight to witnesses who came upon the scene, and applied the wrong standard in his assessment of Ms Quinlivan's evidence.

The MIBI opposed the appeal.

On Friday, Mr Justice Seamus Noonan, on behalf of a three-judge Court of Appeal (CoA), rejected the appeal.

Mr Justice Noonan noted that although she had been driving for a few years and had some driving lessons, she had never taken a driving test. On the day of the accident was driving unaccompanied as a provisional licence holder which she accepted was unlawful, he said.

There was "surprisingly little dispute" about the facts in the case, he said.

While there were certain inconsistencies between Ms Quinlivan's evidence and her statements to both gardaí and her medical advisers, it was not in dispute that she lost control of her vehicle and collided with the bridge in circumstances where she could not explain why that happened, he said.

The High Court judge was criticised for failing to give proper weight to Ms Quinlivan's witnesses' evidence, he said.

However, it seemed that the real complaint was that the judge failed to prefer their evidence to that of the investigating garda who told the court the oil spill was not on the side of the road that Ms Quinlivan was driving on, he said.

In Mr Justice Noonan's view, the High Court “was not merely entitled, but obliged” to conclude that she had not established on the balance of probabilities that the cause of her accident was the spillage.

"That conclusion was perfectly sound and cannot be interfered with by this court."

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