On the 25th April 2016 HHJ Vosper has granted approval to the settlement reached in a fatal accidents act claim from the widow of a cyclist who hit an alleged defect in the highway causing his death. This was an extensive piece of litigation that arouse out the deceased’s tragic death. The circumstances of his death achieved significant prominence in the local and national press. At an inquest the coroner was satisfied that the cause of his death was due to one or other of the defects in the highway. These were initially measured at a significant size by the police who instructed the CPS to consider corporate manslaughter charges against the highway authority. However it became common ground between the experts that the police had measured the defects in a way that was inaccurate and that the true readings were much lower. Because the Deceased travelled at
suggestion that the chain on his bike may have been defective or that he simply lost control and fell into the path of a car travelling in the opposite direction. The claim was at its strongest in respect of s.58 of the Highways Act (the so called ‘due diligence’ defence) by which the council seeks to set up its system of inspection to show that it has exercised all due care to avoid dangerous defects being in existence. Regrettably due to a change in computers they had not followed the guidance and had not inspected the road as they ought to have done on a monthly basis. However the hardest part of the claim lay in respect of the duty on the widow to show that her husband was killed by a dangerous defect. At its worst the experts agreed that one, and possibly two of the defects required a level 2 repair notice to have been issued. None of the defects were however sufficient as to justify a level 1 urgent repair. The acceptance by the Defendant’s own expert that at least one of the defects required repair added strength to the Claimant’s case however this was a case with a number of areas of risk. Fortunately after many hours negotiation at a JSM settlement of the claim was achieved on the basis of a 70% recovery of her damages against the Defendant and an award of £225,000 which HHJ Vosper described at the approval, having read council’s advice, as a good result for the Claimant.
David Rivers appeared for the successful Claimant instructed by Amanda Davies of Smith Llewelyn Solicitors.
William Meade (Senior Clerk)