Tread Carefully when suing the MIBI!

Author: Aideen Farrelly, Mark Kelly and Killian O'Reilly

July 2, 2018

Grimes v Motor Insurers Bureau of Ireland [2018] IEHC 330

A recent High Court case illustrated the special status of the MIBI and the extent to which the Courts will insist an injured Plaintiff adheres to the strict protocols when suing the Bureau.

On 22 March 2011 the Plaintiff, Natalie Grimes, was involved in a RTA as a passenger near Clonee, Co. Meath. The circumstances of the incident were described by Barr J as “somewhat unusual.”

Ms. Grimes went for a drink with Glen Sheridan, the father of her 12 year old son. They were later involved in a car accident when Sheridan drove Ms. Grimes’s uninsured car home from the pub.

Glen Sheridan crashed the vehicle into a lamppost. The couple were brought to the A&E department of Connolly Hospital. At this point the Plaintiff claimed that Sheridan said to her “we have to get out of this dump. I am banned.” She stated that they both left A&E separately and that she has not been able to trace Sheridan since.

She alleged that the only contact she had with Sheridan prior to the accident was around Christmas 2010.

The requirement under the MIBI Agreement is that a Plaintiff can only sue MIBI as a sole defendant in circumstances where the driver of a vehicle involved in an accident is and remains unidentified or untraced.

Ms. Grimes brought High Court proceedings for her injuries against MIBI only, claiming that she could not trace Glen Sheridan.

Ms. Grimes’s Solicitor gave evidence that he had made efforts to contact Blanchardstown Garda Station, seeking details on the accident.

Garda David Laird stated that when he arrived at the scene the occupants of the vehicle had been brought to hospital. He stated that he attended at Connolly Hospital A&E department and approached the Plaintiff and Sheridan, neither of whom would speak to him. He noted that they both had “glazed eyes” and he detected a smell of alcohol. It also appeared they had been arguing. He got the names and addresses of both parties from a nurse. Garda Laird stated that he was not aware of any correspondence from Ms. Grimes’s solicitor. He also stated that had such a request been made of him, he would have supplied a number of addresses for Glen Sheridan that he had acquired since the accident.

Justice Barr concluded that the key issue was whether Sheridan remained “untraced” within the meaning of the 2009 MIBI agreement such that the MIBI could be sued as a sole defendant.

Barr J concluded that no effort had actually been made by Ms. Grimes’s solicitor to contact Garda Laird once he had been informed by Garda authorities that Mr. Laird was the investigating Garda. Barr J stated:

“It is simply untenable to argue that Mr. Sheridan remained untraced since the time of the accident. If Garda Laird had been asked, he would have confirmed that he did indeed have addresses for Mr. Sheridan.”

Barr J concluded that Sheridan was therefore not actually an untraced driver within the meaning of the 2009 Agreement. He stated that the definition of ‘untraced’ is ‘not found or discovered by investigation’. He concluded therefore that it was not possible to say that the whereabouts of Sheridan were not found or discovered by investigation because insufficient investigations were undertaken.

Barr J emphasised the unique status of the MIBI, as the ‘fund of last resort’, and held that it can only be sued as a sole defendant if the driver of a car is actually and demonstrably unidentifiable or untraceable.

On that basis, Barr J dismissed the claim of Ms. Grimes and she was not compensated for her injuries.

This decision is a salutary lesson to Plaintiffs that they must strictly adhere to the MIBI protocol when suing the Bureau.

A copy of the judgement can be found here.

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