1 February 2016

Leonard v Metropolitan Police


Leonard, a cautious and careful cyclist, was half way through executing a right hand turn along a busy road in Islington when suddenly and without any warning he was struck by a Police car driving at speed on the wrong side of the road to answer an emergency call.  Leonard had no recollection of the accident until he woke up in hospital. 

He suffered lacerations to his scalp, to his face, fractures to his cervical vertebrae, cuts and bruises to his limbs and torso, some of which required skin clips.  He was a week in hospital. 

When he was discharged, recovery was slow.  He had to rely on a neck brace for a couple of months, he suffered dizziness, headaches, neck pain, pains in his feet and of course scarring which he treated carefully but which would never disappear. 

An orthopaedic expert provided the foundation report on his physical injuries.

A neurologist reported that he had suffered a mild traumatic brain injury which gave rise to symptoms, including the dizziness, lasting up to 12 months. 

A plastic surgeon reported on the scarring and was able to indicate which scars would become paler with time and which were likely to be permanent.  He did not believe the latter would be improved either by surgery or laser treatment. 

An ENT expert reported that the dizziness was likely to have been caused by the accident at least for a year or so.  (In fairness to the defendant, the MPS had paid for rehabilitation treatment which included expert assessment of “vestibular dysfunction” and had paid for vestibular physiotherapy during his recovery).

An ophthalmologist examined him and reported on “visual field disturbance” experienced since the accident.

There was a psychological element to Leonard’s injuries as the whole episode had aggravated a previous depressive disorder. 

Leonard was unemployed at the time of the accident and so it did not cause him any loss of income, but in addition to all his physical injuries, the accident deprived him of the loss of enjoyment of his bicycle (he did not feel able to return to cycling) and prevented him from attending to his garden, his pride and joy.

The Metropolitan Police had accepted liability from an early stage and had behaved honourably towards Leonard by paying for the physical and psychological therapy that he needed to get back on his feet. (The emergency services owe the same duty of care as other road users and are not excused negligent driving because of the service they perform.)

We established a good working relationship with the case handler for the Metropolitan Police, which enabled Leonard to be placed at the centre of the whole claims process, as the claimant should be. Where the legal representatives on both sides are sensible in the conduct of a case, it generally pays off. Cases get sorted out quicker and the victim can get back to their own life.

After negotiation, the MPS agreed compensation at £35,000, money which was placed into a Special Needs Trust to avoid Leonard losing his entitlement to means tested welfare benefits. 
They also paid Leonard’s legal costs.


4 January 2016

Harry v Bike Republic

Harry, a keen commuting cyclist bought a “Flying Machine Base Urban Model RD2” from the defendant’s shop.  The bike has a Gates carbon belt drive with an 8 speed internal hub.  The belt engages with an alloy rear sprocket and the inner teeth of the sprocket, where it sits on the hub, suffered shearing/wear causing it to slip as he set off from a standing start.  This happened on two occasions before the saw the reason his right leg gave way as he attempted to set off from traffic lights. 

Harry had reported the problem to the bike shop and in fairness to them, they privately admitted that other customers had reported similar problems and the manufacturers had reverted to the use of steel sprockets.  Harry recovered the damaged sprocket from the shop, which was sensible, as any expert would need to examine it to provide an opinion on the cause of the defect / failure.

In law, the sprocket was defective under the EU Product Liability Directive and the Consumer Protection Act 1987.  Any expert evidence needed to prove this defect was likely to be expensive.  Manufacturers don’t like admitting defects in materials or construction and will often go to great lengths to allege customer misuse. 

In this case the shop’s insurers admitted liability early on and expert liability evidence was not needed.  Harry had suffered tendon/ligament damage to his knee and he had organised sports rehabilitation physiotherapy himself for which he had paid.  We obtained a report from an orthopaedic doctor with an interest in knee problems. His report identified the likely length of time the knee had been affected by the injury. (Harry had since resumed cycling).

The shop’s insurers made an offer of £4,500 to compensate him for the injury, the medical expenses he had incurred and his other out of pocket losses (the shop had paid for repairs to the cycle). 

The insurers also paid the recoverable costs Harry incurred.  The lesson of this case is that where a product is alleged to be defective, retain the product until it can be examined by an expert appointed by your solicitor. If the item is released to the defendant, it may be sent off for destructive testing thus depriving you of the evidence you need to prove the case.