Lawyer defending truck driver slams employer, insurer for shirking their responsibilities

Lawyer defending a truck driver over a fatal accident, in which a 71-year-old man was reversed over, accuses defendant’s employer and his insurer of attempting to shirk their responsibilities and make him bear the blame alone

File photo
File photo

A lawyer defending a truck driver over a fatal accident in which a 71-year-old man was reversed over, has accused the defendant’s employer and his insurer of attempting to shirk their responsibilities and make him bear the blame alone.

This emerged during a somewhat rowdy sitting in the compilation of evidence against 36-year-old Davide Manunta of Mosta continued before Magistrate Donatella Frendo Dimech this morning.

Manunta had been arraigned by summons in January on charges of involuntary homicide and negligent driving, in connection with a fatal accident in Birżebbuġa that occurred in February 2022.

The incident in question had claimed the life of a 71-year-old man from Mġarr who died after being run over by a truck in Triq Wied il-Qoton in Birżebbuġa. In previous sittings, the court had been told that the victim appears to have been assisting Manunta to manoeuvre the truck at the time he was run over.

One of the witnesses who testified today was Adrian Calleja, who is listed in the police report as having gone on site in his capacity as the health and safety officer for the contractor, G&P Borg.

Lawyer Alexia Zammit Mackeon, representing G&P Borg’s insurer, Elmo Insurance, suggested that the witness be administered a caution unless the prosecution declared that he is not going to face charges in relation to the incident.

Police Inspector Jonathan Cassar, prosecuting, said he intended to summon a witness from the Occupational Health and Safety Authority. “I am not comfortable saying that charges will or will not be pressed at this stage,” said the inspector.

The Court pointed out that this decision should have been taken earlier and ordered the witness to take the stand.

But lawyer Charlon Gouder, representing G&P Borg in the proceedings, insisted that the inspector must declare his intentions with regards to pressing charges.

A loud exchange of views involving the lawyers for both sides, as well as the court, ensued.

At one point, the witness, puzzled at the sudden descent of chaos, asked “what is happening here?”

Lawyer Franco Galea, appearing parte civile for the victim described the company’s courtroom actions as “inviting me to file a criminal complaint.”

The court administered the caution, explaining to the witness that he had the right not to answer questions which he thought could incriminate him.

Gouder interjected again, to accuse the prosecution of having already decided not to press charges because “it was afraid of what would happen out there.”

The witness told the court that he had been the company’s Health and Safety officer and manager since 2016.

But asked to specify the date on which he had filed an incident report with the OHSA about the fatality, he replied that he hadn’t.  “I did not file an incident report because the information I received from the police was that it was a traffic accident.”

If the incident were to be classified as a traffic accident, there would be no grounds for proceedings against the man’s employer.

The magistrate ordered the inspector to decide whether the police would be proceeding against any of the witnesses, by the next sitting. “If the OHSA wanted to press charges, they should have done so.”

But Galea pointed out if an incident report had not even been filed, the OHSA would not have been able to press charges. “They want this poor man to carry all the blame alone,” said the lawyer.

The court lambasted the lawyers on both sides of the dispute. “You should be ashamed of using this court to further your aims.”

Galea declared that his questions would only be aimed at establishing the dynamics of the incident, explaining that the court expert appointed during the magisterial inquiry had only exhibited a site plan and had not even established what manoeuvre was being attempted at the time.

After the eruption of another shouting match, the Court threatened to report the bickering lawyers to the Commission for the Administration of Justice.

The sitting was adjourned to next month for the conclusion of the prosecution’s evidence.

Police inspector Jonathan Cassar is prosecuting.

Lawyers Franco Galea and Roberto Spiteri appeared for the parte civile.

Lawyer Matthew Xuereb assisted the accused. Defence lawyer Franco Debono also appeared for the accused.