Pensioner awarded damages after sunroof blown off car
A 72-year-old woman, who injured her back after the sunroof of her daughter’s car blew away as the vehicle drove along the M1, has been awarded €25,000 damages against car supplier Denis Mahony Ltd.
Judge Raymond Groarke heard in the Circuit Civil Court on Friday that “it was like a bomb going off in the car” when the air rushed in to the car after the sunroof blew away.
The court was told that the woman’s daughter, Pamela Boylan, was driving her family to Newry, Co Down, for pre-Christmas shopping in November 2013 when the incident happened.
He said that, after the roof blew away, Ms Boylan had to slam on the brakes, injuring herself and four adult passengers who were knocked “forwards and then backwards” in the car.
Ms Boylan (43), of Hampton Wood Road, Finglas, Co Dublin, said she was driving between 80km/h and 90km/h when the sunroof blew off and told the Court that after she slammed on the brakes she pulled onto the hard shoulder.
She said she then pulled in to an Applegreen filling station, where a black plastic bag was stuck over the hole in the roof.
Ms Boylan said her mother, Kathleen Boylan, of Balbutcher Lane, Poppintree, Dublin, and three other family members in the car had been injured and that there were three other injury claims arising from the incident which would be heard later by the court.
The judge heard that Pamela Boylan’s 2005 Toyota car had been bought from Denis Mahony’s four months before the incident and had been expected “to be fit for purpose and of merchantable quality and free from defects”.
David Geary, an independent motor assessor, told the court that he had examined the car and found corrosion around the frame of the sunroof. Mr Geary said the extent of the corrosion indicated that it had been present on the vehicle prior to it having been sold by Denis Mahony, at Kilbarrack Road, Dublin 5 .
He said that if Denis Mahony’s had inspected the sunroof adequately, the rust would have been visible.
John Beirne, customer services manager at Denis Mahony, said the condition of the sunroof would have come under the heading of an electricals check on the car. When asked by the judge why the garage would not accept responsibility for the sunroof flying off the car, he said: “I accept what you are saying.”
The judge, awarding damages to both Pamela and Kathleen Boylan saying that there had been a serious defect in the car which resulted in a catastrophic failure of the sunroof.
He said the defect could have been found had there been a full and adequate pre-sale inspection.
He accepted that the sunroof flying off at 90km/h would have been a shocking and frightening experience and that it was understandable that Ms Boylan’s immediate reaction would have been to slam on the brakes, jolting everyone in the car forwards and then backwards.
The judge said he accepted medical evidence that Kathleen Boylan had suffered a compression fracture of one of the vertebrae in her lower back as a result of this and awarded her €25,000.
As Pamela Boylan had made a fairly quick recovery from neck and shoulder injuries suffered in the incident, he awarded her €12,500 damages.