Damages awarded to the widow of a motorcylist killed in a road crash are to be cut by 70 per cent because he had been drinking, a High Court judge ruled yesterday.
Mr Justice O’Hara held that 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 fatally injured 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 onto 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 at the time of the accident.
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.
Despite acknowledging she had completed the manoeuvre thousands of time without incident, he ruled: “I conclude there was some negligence on Mrs Quinn’s part on this occasion.”
However, the judge 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.
“He should not have been on his bike at all, primarily because of the alcohol he had taken.”
Mr Justice O’Hara confirmed: “I find for the plaintiff, but reduce the award of damages by 70 per cent 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.