A Cratloe businessman has been ordered to pay €19,000 to a 67-year-old taxi driver as a result of the trauma the taxi driver suffered when the businessman came at him with a hatchet in a row over a fare.
At Ennis Circuit Civil Court, Judge Gerald Keys described the actions of company director John Moran as “completely over the top, unjustified and wrong” in brandishing the hatchet against John Moloney outside his Cratloe home on November 3, 2013.
Judge Keys said Mr Moran “was in a state of rage, because he felt that he had been ripped off by Mr Moloney, and whether he was or not is irrelevant because it doesn’t justify someone having a row with a taxi-driver over a fare of €31 and producing a hatchet”.
Judge Keys added: “To react and challenge someone with a hatchet is totally disproportionate.”
Judge Keys also awarded costs against Mr Moran of The Island, Cratloe in the case.
The court heard Mr Moran is a director of a company that employs four to five people.
Judge Keys said the incident had serious consequences for Mr Moloney.
Mr Moran, who had five to six pints on the night, strenuously denied producing the hatchet in the incident. Charges of assault and producing the hatchet against Mr Moran in a criminal case in the district court were dismissed previously.
Asked whether he thinks about the incident now, Mr Moloney told Ennis Circuit Civil Court: “It is never going to leave me . . . it is there the whole time.”
Counsel for Mr Moloney, Michael Purtill, said that in the incident, his client “feared that he was going to be seriously hurt”.
Mr Purtill said his client suffered no physical injuries in the incident as he wasn’t struck by the hatchet and his injuries were psychological.
On the night, Mr Moran was out in Limerick watching a Munster match in a pub and at 1am entered Mr Moloney’s taxi to take him the 12km to Cratloe.
During the journey, Mr Moloney said Mr Moran nodded off for a few minutes and the trip took longer than usual. Mr Moloney said this was as a result of Mr Moran saying “drive on” at a crossroads.
On arriving at Mr Moran’s home, Mr Moloney charged the married father of two €31.65 for the trip and in response Mr Moran offered to pay only €20, telling Mr Moloney, “You are getting fuck all”, and got out of the car.
A taxi-driver for 41 years, Mr Moloney got out of the car and pursued Mr Moran. Mr Moloney said: “This was at the side of the house and he picked up something and fired it in my direction.”
“I ran back to the car and started blowing the hooter because I didn’t know what danger I was in at this stage between him running and dogs barking.”
Mr Moloney said Mr Moran’s wife came to the front door and he was talking to her briefly before she shouted to her husband: “John, what the fuck are you doing?”
Mr Moloney said he turned around and saw Mr Moran coming at him with a hatchet raised over his head.
Mr Moran was six to seven feet away and Mr Moloney said he put up his arms to protect himself but Mr Moran’s wife grabbed her husband and forced him in the front door.
Mr Moloney said she came back out and said: “You have brought my husband all over the country. Come out tomorrow for your €20.”
Mr Moloney left the scene and drove to Henry Street Garda Station in Limerick to make a formal complaint.
In evidence, consultant clinical psychologist Brian O’Keeffe said Mr Moloney “suffered an adjustment disorder in response to the experience of that night”.
He said: “When someone experiences a very untoward event, there is an intense emotional reaction to it. A person can show very intense anxiety over a period of a few weeks and months which gradually diminishes over time.”
Mr Moran has the option of appealing the judge’s award and ruling to the High Court.