‘Appalled’ Dad Of Victim Joins High Court Judge In Attacking Defence Lawyers’ Tactics
THE father of a student left paralysed in all four limbs after the car she was travelling in crashed into an embankment and overturned three days before Christmas has spoken of his relief after her family won their legal battle for a lifelong package of 24-hour care and vital rehabilitation.
But he also joined with the High Court Judge who ruled in his daughter’s favour and with serious injury experts at law firm Irwin Mitchell in criticising the tactics of the defendants’ lawyers, who had penalty costs awarded against them for their ‘unreasonable conduct’ in the case.
Rosie Mayes, from Sheffield, was just 20 when the car, being driven by her then-boyfriend, went onto the wrong side of the road in December 2009 in Dronfield, Derbyshire, and collided with an embankment before over-turning.
It took fire-fighters more than 30 minutes to cut Rosie, now 22, free from the wreckage at the scene on Stubley Hollow, before she was rushed to hospital with a serious spinal injury, spending 12 days in intensive care over Christmas with her distraught family by her bedside and a total of 10 months in hospital as she recovered from her devastating injuries.
Despite the best efforts of medical staff, Rosie – who was studying for a degree in History at York University at the time – was left tetraplegic, with only a small amount of movement in her right bicep and is now confined to a wheelchair and in need of 24-hour care.
But despite strong evidence that the driver was at fault, the defendants’ solicitors denied liability for Rosie’s horrific injuries, forcing her and her family to endure a three-day liability trial at the High Court in Leeds, more than two years on from the collision.
At the hearing last week, Mr Justice Singh ruled in favour of Rosie, granting her a further interim payment of damages to enable her care to continue and allowing her legal team from Irwin Mitchell to begin work on agreeing a settlement which will fund the lifetime of care and rehabilitation which Rosie will need.
Mr Justice Singh also made clear his disapproval of the defendant’s lawyers’ ‘unreasonable conduct to a high degree’ in the case by awarding indemnity, or penalty, costs against them .
The ruling was welcomed by Rosie’s father, Andy Wynne, who said: “A more vulnerable client, with a less resourceful and determined legal team, might well have buckled under the pressure and I am appalled that insurance companies feel that it is acceptable to employ such tactics, particularly in such a clear cut case. I hope they have learned a lesson, but I won't hold my breath.”
He added: “Nothing can ever bring back the life that Rosie had before this dreadful and avoidable accident. It is a huge relief to know that she is guaranteed the best possible care for the rest of her life.
“Despite everything she has been through, she remains an absolute inspiration to us all. She’s determined to move on with her life and has already resumed her studies, at Sheffield University. We couldn’t be prouder of her and we’re delighted that, after more than two years of worry while the other side delayed matters for no good reason, she can finally look forward to moving on with her life.”
Spinal injury expert Rachael Aram from Irwin Mitchell, who is representing Rosie, said: “The conduct of the defendants in this case has been hugely disappointing and has shown no consideration for what Rosie and her family have been through.
“Sadly, tactics like this from the defence in cases like this are not unusual but we welcome the penalty the Judge has imposed on them for their conduct and hope this sends a clear signal to other defendant lawyers in similar cases.
“Mr Justice Singh found in Rosie’s favour on all points in this matter, which shows the strength of the case we brought on her behalf, and we are delighted that this ruling offers her the chance to move on with her life now and continue her rehabilitation safe in the knowledge that she will have the care and support she needs for the rest of her life.
“We will now begin the process of investigating thoroughly all of her needs and requirements and ensuring that we obtain a final settlement to secure her future, maximising her choices, the quality of her care package and, most importantly of all, her quality of life. Though this will take time, we have also managed to secure a further interim payment for Rosie which enables her care package to continue until a settlement is agreed.”
Criticising the defendant team’s conduct in the case, Mr Justice Singh said: “I appreciate you would normally be entitled to costs on a standard basis unless the Court would wish to show a mark of disapproval towards the other party for unreasonable conduct to a high degree which in this case the Defence conducted themselves during this trial. I accept the standard of conduct has reached this degree on three grounds.”
Rosie’s case was brought on a Conditional Fee Agreement basis, otherwise known as ‘no win no fee’, and Ms Aram and Mr Wynne also joined forces to criticise Government plans to change the funding in such cases through the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Bill, which is currently going through Parliament and will see future claimants having to pay some of their legal fees from the damages awarded to them for their losses and future care.
Mr Wynne said: “This has been a long battle for Rosie and for us as a family and there is simply no way that we could have brought this case without the ‘no win no fee system’. The settlement she will get is vital to pay for her future care and rehabilitation and it’s simply wrong that she would then have that eroded. In my view, the losing side should pay the costs, not innocent victims like Rosie.”
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