Damages to Co Down widow of crash victim cut by 70%
Damages awarded to the widow of a motorcylist killed in a road crash are to be cut by 70% because he had been drinking, a High Court judge has ruled.
Mr Justice O'Hara said Nigel Gibson was more to blame for the fatal accident than the motorist he collided with.
Even though Kathleen Quinn's driving was held to be negligent, the judge said Mr Gibson should not have been on his bike.
The motorcyclist was killed in the crash on the Comber Road near Killyleagh, Co Down, in September 2009. His widow Pauline sued Mrs Quinn over her actions in pulling out on to the road from a lane close to her home. It was claimed that she should have known it was unsafe to emerge at that moment.
Mrs Quinn defended the case by alleging all fault lay with Mr Gibson. He was almost twice the legal drink-drive limit at the time, the court heard. Lawyers for the defendant also argued that the motorcyclist was going too fast.
But based on expert opinion, the judge held that he had not been travelling at an obviously excessive speed.
Mr Justice O'Hara said it was much more likely that Mrs Quinn had failed to make a second check in his direction before pulling out.
The judge ruled: "I conclude there was some negligence on Mrs Quinn's part on this occasion."
However, he also noted that the victim had been drinking.
"Mr Gibson was much more to blame by way of contributory fault for the accident," he said.
Mr Justice O'Hara confirmed: "I feel for the plaintiff, but reduce the award of damages by 70% by reason of contributory negligence on the part of the late Mr Gibson."
A further hearing will now take place to finalise the amount to be paid out.