The Malta Independent 24 September 2023, Sunday
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Driver to pay €324,000 in damages to family of woman who died after hit by car

Wednesday, 25 January 2023, 13:28 Last update: about 9 months ago

A court has ruled that a motorist and his insurer must pay €323,944 to the family of a woman who died after she was hit by a car in Gzira in October 2017.

Stephanie Rapa was killed while crossing Triq ix-Xatt, Gzira at 7:40pm when she was hit by the car which was being driven at 140km/h.

The pharmacist and medical student, an only daughter, had been hit by a Nissan Skyline driven by Anthony Cassar.

Cassar is facing separate court proceedings in which he is charged with involuntary homicide.

Chircop, who had been driving towards Sliema when he collided with the woman, denies that he was driving at 140 km/h at the time.

Rapa’s parents subsequently also filed a civil case for damages against the driver.

In June 2022, the First Hall of the Civil Court ruled that the victim and the driver had been equally to blame for the incident, because Rapa had not been on a zebra crossing at the time she was struck by the speeding car.

Her parents filed an appeal, arguing that the street had been well-lit, the road surface had been dry and the visibility was good. The fatal incident had been captured on CCTV cameras of a nearby restaurant.

In its judgment, the Court of Appeal, presided by Chief Justice Mark Chetcuti, together with judges Giannino Caruana Demajo and Anthony Ellul, ruled that there had been no contributory negligence on the part of the victim.

“This court has no doubt that dangerous driving was the proximal cause of the incident in which Stephanie Rapa lost her life. At a speed of 140 km/h, the defendant placed himself in a position where he was unable to avoid the incident. Furthermore, the evidence shows that shortly before the incident occurred, the defendant had made use of a special feature of his vehicle to increase its speed.

“As a result, the victim had no chance. The vehicle had been travelling like an arrow, so much so that the defendant didn’t even see [Rapa] crossing, in spite of the width of the road where she crossed…her light-coloured clothes, the road being lit and straight and the good weather.”

The court said it was “beyond satisfied” that the incident had occurred “solely because the defendant had decided to show off in an inhabited area and imagine that he was driving on some highway or racetrack.”

The footage of the incident showed the violence of the impact and was also evidence of the terrifying speed he had been driving at - the victim had been thrown into the air at a height of at least three metres, and hit the ground several metres away from the point of impact, said the court.

“In the circumstances, the court concludes that the defendant must bear full responsibility for the incident in which Stephanie Rapa lost her life.”

“Those who want to show off by driving in this manner, cannot then seek refuge in the fact that the pedestrian crossed a busy road and not used the traffic lights. It is true that the road is principally there for the use of vehicles, but not so that vehicles are driven at that speed.”

The Court of Appeal upheld the appeal and ordered Chircop and his insurer to pay the Rapa family €324,944 in damages, together with the costs of both first instance and the appeal.

Lawyer Sarah Mifsud represented the family of the victim in the proceedings, while lawyers Franco Debono and Marion Camilleri assisted Chircop.


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