Damages cut because teen ‘as much to blame’

Have your say

A TEENAGER crippled when his moped collided with a minibus will see his compensation cut by a fifth.

Benjamin Woodham, of Barton Road, Thurston, Bury St Edmunds, was 16 in October 2007 when he hit the bus windscreen in School Lane, Great Barton, resulting in a severe head and spinal injuries which left him in a wheelchair.

Mr Woodham, now 20, sued the minibus owners, Turner’s of Great Barton, claiming damages of more than £2 million.

The firm denied liability, but High Court judge Mr Justice Kenneth Parker last year found the minibus driver 70 per cent responsible, while Mr Woodham ‘contributed to his own injuries to the extent of 30 per cent’.

But his ruling was overturned on Monday by three senior judges, after Turner’s challenged it at the Appeal Court.

Lord Justice Davis said the High Court judge was ‘simply wrong’ to find the minibus driver bore the lion’s share of responsibility and said Mr Woodham was ‘as much to blame’.

Sitting with Lord Justice Carnwath and Sir Stephen Sedley, he said Mr Woodham was riding home from college along the A143 and overtook a line of traffic which had stopped at temporary lights.

At the head of the queue was a tractor and trailer whose driver had left a gap to allow vehicles to turn from School Road on to the A143. As the bus turned right on to the A143, Mr Woodham’s bike collided with it.

In June last year, Mr Justice Parker agreed the bus driver, who admitted the tractor reduced her view of traffic, was emerging slowly and was looking as best she could, but concluded she was obliged to give way to traffic on the A143.

Lawyers for Turner’s argued Mr Woodham should have slowed down when approaching the junction, to allow time to stop if a vehicle emerged.

Allowing Turner’s appeal, Lord Justice Davis said there was ‘no reason to differentiate’ between the bus driver and Mr Woodham and they were each 50 per cent liable for the crash.

The ruling means the amount of damages will now be assessed on the basis of only 50 per cent liability. The award will be assessed at another court hearing, unless final settlement terms are agreed before then.