'It's incredible… unreal' – judge throws out personal injury claims for €120,000 over 'car filled with smoke'

A judge has told two Romanian nationals he could not believe the smoke signals emanating from the witness box in his court as he threw out their personal injury claims totalling €120,000.

A third plaintiff withdrew a €60,000 claim. Circuit Court President Mr Justice Raymond Groarke said he found evidence of a car mysteriously filling up with dense smoke to such a degree as to blind the driver and cause him to crash into a tree to be incredible.

He said a man injured in the crash had maintained the driver had been blinded by oncoming bright headlights and had not mentioned smoke until cross-examined by barrister Paul O’Neill, counsel for Aviva Insurance which fought the claims.

“It’s incredible… unreal if these stories are untrue,” Judge Groarke said.

He had heard Detective Sergeant Mark Ashford tell the court how he had been unable to find trace nor sign of smoke or fumes in the Ford Galaxy Aspen following the single vehicle accident at Phibsboro Avenue, Dublin, in March 2012.

Detective Sergeant Ashford said his suspicions had immediately been aroused when the allegedly injured passengers kept moving in and out of ambulances that had been called to the scene. The trio were taken in ambulances to three Dublin hospitals.

“There was no evidence of broken bones, bruising, lacerations or eye discolouration that might have been consistent with carbon monoxide fumes in the car,” Sgt Ashford told the court.

Detective Sergeant Ashford said the driver and occupants of the vehicle simply disappeared following their attendance at the hospitals. Garda phone calls had gone unanswered and letters to an address given to gardaí had been returned. The address, 64 Racecourse Lawn, Tralee, Co Kerry, did not exist.

An Aviva underwriter said the car driver and co-defendant Mihai Agache, also Tralee, had taken out insurance cover on February 28, less than three weeks before the accident. Five days after the accident the policy had been cancelled and a refund cheque issued to Mr Agache and later cashed.

Judge Groarke dismissed €60,000 claims by mother of four Maria Petronela Moisa, Tralee, Co Kerry, and Sorin Moisa, also Tralee, and awarded Aviva their costs against them. Mr O’Neill successfully applied for a costs order against Traian Rezmives who had withdrawn a €60,000 claim just before the trial opened.

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