How a Christmas Tree Tossing Contest Cost a Woman $820,000

A woman who claimed to have suffered severe injuries from a car accident in 2017 has lost her lawsuit for $820,000 after a photo of her winning a Christmas tree tossing contest emerged. Kamila Grabska, a 36-year-old mother of two from Ennis, Ireland, had sued RSA Insurance for past and future loss of earnings, as well as pain and suffering, after she was rear-ended by another driver.

The Accident and the Claim

Grabska claimed that the accident left her with debilitating pain in her back, neck and thoracic spine, which prevented her from working, doing household chores, or playing with her children. She said she had to quit her job as a cleaner shortly after the accident and received disability payments. She also said she had to take strong painkillers and anti-inflammatory drugs to cope with her condition.

She sought $820,000 in damages from RSA Insurance, the insurer of the driver who hit her. She said she could not work for over five years and estimated her past and future loss of earnings at $542,000. She also claimed $278,000 for pain and suffering, medical expenses, and legal costs.

The Evidence and the Verdict

However, her claim was dismissed by the High Court in Limerick after the defense presented evidence that contradicted her allegations. The most damning piece of evidence was a photo of Grabska participating in a Christmas tree throwing competition in January 2018, less than a year after the accident. The photo, which was published in a local newspaper, showed Grabska hurling a 5-foot spruce tree with great force and agility. She won the contest by throwing the tree 19 feet.

Christmas Tree Tossing Contest Cost a Woman

The defense also showed a video of Grabska play-wrestling with a large Dalmatian dog for up to 1.5 hours in November 2023, which demonstrated her physical abilities and stamina.

When questioned in court, Grabska denied that she had exaggerated her injuries and said she was still in pain when she threw the Christmas tree and wrestled with the dog. She said she was trying to live a normal life and smile despite her suffering.

However, Judge Carmel Stewart was not convinced by her testimony and said she had no choice but to dismiss the claim. She said the photo of Grabska throwing the Christmas tree was “a very graphic picture” that was “at odds” with the medical evidence provided. She also said the video of Grabska wrestling with the dog showed that she had “a very active lifestyle”.

“I’m afraid I cannot but conclude the claims were entirely exaggerated,” she said. “On that basis, I propose to dismiss the claim.”

The Reaction and the Implication

RSA Insurance welcomed the verdict and said it was pleased that the court had recognized the claim as fraudulent. A spokesperson for the company said that “the significant majority of claims that we handle are genuine” but that they would “robustly challenge any attempt to pursue claims that are not genuine”.

Grabska’s lawyers did not comment on the outcome of the case. Grabska herself could not be reached for comment.

The case highlights the issue of insurance fraud and the need for vigilance and verification of claims. According to the Insurance Fraud Bureau of Ireland, insurance fraud costs the Irish economy over $260 million a year and adds an average of $70 to each policyholder’s premium.

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