Future Supreme Court Judge Unsuccessfully Sued for Negligent Driving, 1924

From the Dublin Evening Telegraph, 4th and 5th March, 1924:

Miss May McConnon, a typist, residing at the Gaelic Hotel, Blackrock, Dundalk, claimed £3000 damages against Mr Cecil Lavery, barrister-at-law, for personal injuries caused, as alleged, by the negligence of the defendant in the management of a motor car near Dundalk.

The Plaintiff gave evidence, in which she stated that she was getting off her bicycle near Hearty’s cottages on the main road between Dublin and Dundalk, in order to borrow a bicycle pump, when she was struck from behind by the motor car.  At the time she was struck she was near the footpath.  She heard no horn sounded.

Cross-examined by Mr Wood KC, the plaintiff denied that she was standing, holding her bicycle, and that when she was mounting it, it wobbled out in front of her.  She did not remember the defendant saying to her ‘Why did you get up on your bicycle like that?’

Dr JV O’Hagan stated that the plaintiff was admitted to the Louth Hospital.  She had a wound on the right side of the scalp, two deep wounds on the left thigh and numerous abrasions. 

Surgeon McArdle gave evidence of having examined the plaintiff about the middle of September.  On that occasion she collapsed in his hall at 78 Merrion Square.  He expressed the opinion to her doctors that she had sustained a severe shock to the brain and spinal cord.  He saw her again in November when she appeared to be worse.  She was suffering from nerve degeneration and was at present in a deplorable condition.

Mr Wood KC, addressing the jury on behalf of the defendant, said that the defence in the case was that there was no negligence on the part of Mr Lavery, and there was no damage caused of the momentous character stated as the result of what happened on the road on the date mentioned.   The defendant, who was an expert driver, was driving along a straight, wide road, having his car under absolute control, and the plaintiff, who was in front, seemed to the defendant, as it were, to get off the bicycle, and then wobbled out in front of him.   His car caught her.  It was immediately brought to a standstill, and he contended that the accident was not caused by any negligence on the part of the defendant, but by an irregular operation on the part of the plaintiff.

Sir William Taylor said that he saw the plaintiff on October 16, 1923, in Mr McArdle’s house in Merrion Square.  All the wounds were practically healed, except one on the little finger of the left hand.  On Saturday last he saw her in a home in Upper Mount Street, and on examination failed to find any organic lesion.

The defendant gave evidence, and said that he was driving at about fifteen miles an hour on the left side of the road, which was about 25 feet wide.  He saw the girl on the left-hand side of the road with her bicycle.  She was off the bicycle.  He kept a perfectly clear course, and just as he was passing her she seemed to lift herself into the bicycle and came across the bonnet at the car.  There was no question of avoiding her, and the only thing he could do was stop the car, which he did.  The front of the car came against the bicycle and plaintiff was between the front wheels.  It was not true that she was under one of the wheels and that the car had to be lifted to remove her.  He said to her: “Why did you come out across me like that?” but did not receive any reply. 

The jury, after an absence of one hour, found that the defendant was not guilty of any negligence.”

A very young Mr Lavery, appearing in the Irish Independent as winner of the John Brooke scholarship.

Mr Lavery, son of an Armagh solicitor, had previously featured in the Irish Independent on the 27th June 1915 as winner of the John Brooke Scholarship for that year. He had a large junior practice and took silk in 1927. He subsequently became Attorney General and Leader of the Irish Bar.  A note in the Belfast Telegraph on the 17th April 1950 on the occasion of his appointment as a Supreme Court judge stated that his name had featured on one side or the other in almost every important case at the Eire Bar.

An older Mr Lavery KC snapped by Tatler at Leopardstown Races, shortly before his appointment to the Bench.

Road traffic accident claims – later temporarily stalled due to petrol shortages during the Emergency – continued to be a increasing source of revenue for the Bar for the next decade and a half.

The Belfast Telegraph of 30 October 1925 contained a report of another High Court case in which one Mary O’Connor, of Fair Green, Dundalk, claimed £500 damages from the Reverend Bernard Maguire, Parish Priest, as compensation for personal injuries caused to her by the alleged negligence of the defendant in the management and control of a motor-car which had knocked her down at the junction of Earl St and Francis St, Dundalk.

The case, subsequently settled for £55 and costs, must have called up some memories for one Mr Lavery BL instructed as Junior Counsel for the defendant!

Image Credit: (top left) (top right)

Author: Ruth Cannon BL

Irish barrister sharing the history of the Four Courts, Dublin, Ireland, and other Irish courts.

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