A LIMERICK farmer who faced selling the land where he was born to pay for an accident on his uninsured farm has reached a settlement with the injured party at the High Court.
After a divisive 22-year long dispute, the final settlement amounted to just 7% of the costs awarded against him, set at an earlier ruling.
David O’Connor, from Kilmallock, was owed in the region of €700,000 from his former neighbour Mossie Clery, 74, of Ballynamolooch, Kilmallock, after he was injured on Mr Clery’s land 20 years ago.
However, the case was settled at the High Court this week for a much lesser sum of €50,000, following more than 25 court appearances over two decades.
In April 1990, the injured party was on the farm of Mr Clery to purchase timber, which Mr Clery was cutting and selling. But the blade from the saw became dislodged and struck Mr O’Connor in the head.
The blade became lodged in his skull, and he was left his serious, permanent injuries, requiring 24 hour care ever since. His injuries have left him paralysed on his left side and confined to a wheelchair for long periods of time.
He was awarded £249,000 in 1993, but the balance outstanding grew to almost €700,000 in recent years due to interest and spiralling legal costs.
The bachelor refused to sell his 65-acre farm, or hand over the deeds, to raise the funds to pay the injured party.
He spent 19 months in Limerick Prison for being in contempt of court and was released in August 2002. He eventually sold his mother’s 22-acre farm in Dromin for pay damages.
The local branch of the Irish Farmers’ Association maintained at the time that “no farmer in his right mind would touch it” if it were sold.
Mediation talks between both sides had failed last year, before the settlement was agreed by both parties in the Examiner’s Court this week before Ms Justice Finlay Geoghegan.
In 2010, a farmers’ savers fund was set up to aid Mr Clery, with nearly 900 farmers throughout Munster donating a total of €30,000, which was handed over to the injured party and also directed towards the mediation process.
Eddie Scanlon, the local chairman of the Irish Farmers’ Association, said he believed the original figure owed to the plaintiff was “over the top, and too much to expect”.
“The big thing is that he [Mossie Clery] still owns his farm,” Mr Scanlon told the Limerick Leader. “I’m delighted for him. I couldn’t imagine what he went through over the years. I’m glad the case has ended successfully.”
Mr Scanlon said the IFA would never be in a position to pay the full costs, but believes that when the organisation stood by him in court “it lent weight to his cause”.
He said the one lesson to be learnt from this case is that every farmer should have insurance for his property.
But a number of Mr Clery’s supporters, including Tom O’Donnell and John O’Gorman, from Ballylanders, said “it was the ordinary people, not the IFA, that did the work. The IFA were only hanging around the bush. They had no role in this.”
Both men wished to point out that while the media have mainly highlighted Mr Clery’s plight, the O’Connor family have also suffered immensely.
“We respect the O’Connor family and wish them well. There’s been a lot of sympathy expressed for David O’Connor when we went around collecting money from people. It’s not a one-sided story,” said Mr O’Gorman.
Mr Clery sold about 10 of his cattle to raise some of the costs, with family members helping him raise the full €50,000.
His supporters wished to thank all those who contributed to the fund, as well as to the judge for her patience in dealing with the case.
The O’Connor family declined to comment when contacted through a representative.