November 21, 2015
The High Court in Belfast has resolved a claim for a car crash fatality in a hearing to establish liability for the death of a County Down man.
In July 2010, Leslie Browne and his wife Elizabeth were driving on the B8 from Newry to Hilltown, when they were involved in a head-on crash with a Toyota Yaris driven by Sandra Murray. The stretch of road on which the accident happened is known locally as the Seven Sisters because of its dangerous bends.
Leslie was badly injured, and died one month later. Elizabeth sought legal advice and made a claim for a car crash fatality against Murray; alleging that she had been driving inattentively and in a manner that was inappropriate for the wet road conditions.
Murray denied liability for causing Leslie´s death and claimed that she had lost control of her vehicle due to being hit from behind by a Fiat Punto driven by Michal Marczak. Marczak denied that there had been any contact between the two cars and said that the accident was caused by Murray braking excessively on the crown of a bend and losing control of her vehicle.
The claim for a car crash fatality went to the High Court in Belfast, where it was heard by Mr Justice Stephens. Judge Stephens was told that a settlement figure of £50,000 had been agreed, and the case was before him to establish liability.
After hearing that there was no evidence of contact between Murray´s Toyota Yaris and Marczak´s Fiat Punto, Judge Stephens found Murray solely responsible for causing Leslie´s death. He rejected Murray´s evidence that she had been travelling between 27mph and 37mph, and said that a combination of excessive speed and excessive braking had led to her losing control of her car.
Mr Justice Stephens agreed with the claim that Murray had been inattentive while driving along the B8, and commented “I consider that it reflects the fact that the first defendant did not and does not know what happened so that she grasped at anything that might exonerate her.” The judge ruled that Murray was totally liable for the settlement of the claim for a car crash fatality and also for Elizabeth´s and Marczak´s legal costs.