Widow of pothole death cyclist to sue council

Wife of Martyn Uzzell wants North Yorkshire County Council brought to account

by John Stevenson   March 10, 2014  

Broken bike (CC licensed image by garryknight, www.flickr.com)

The widow of a cyclist who died after he hit a pothole in North Yorkshire says she plans to sue the county council.

Martyn Uzzell was killed when he hit the pothole on the A65 at Giggleswick while riding from Land’s End to John O’Groats in June 2011. He died after being thrown into the path of an oncoming car.

The inquest into Mr Uzzell’s death heard that police had notified North Yorkshire County Council of the state of the road on May 11 and the council had inspected it on May 13, but taken no action.

North Yorkshire coroner Rob Turnbull said in a narrative verdict at Skipton Coroner’s Court that he had “no doubt whatsoever that the condition of the road on that occasion was the cause of the accident”.

Mr Uzzell’s wife of more than 20 years, Kate, said after the inquest: “It is simply disgraceful that a pothole on such a busy road was allowed to go unrepaired.

“The coroner clearly stated, in his opinion, that the pothole around the gulley is what caused Martyn to be thrown into the path of a car.”

But a Crown Prosecution Service review of the case decided that there were no grounds for criminal prosecution against the council in relation to its alleged failure to repair the pothole.

Now Kate Uzzell feels she has no option but to bring a civil case against the council. She told the BBC: “They had been warned, they had inspected and they still did nothing — it’s just appalling.

“[Suing the council] is not what I wanted to do.

“But I wanted there to be a prosecution and for them to stand up and be counted.”

A council spokeswoman said: “Our sympathies remain with the family of Martyn Uzzell following his tragic fatal accident.”

10 user comments

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I saw a picture of the pothole in question on the BBC news last night. Not exactly a pothole as we usually understand it - it looked like someone had very neatly cut out the tarmac for about six inches around a road drain and about six inches straight down. No crumbling or anything like that, just a very neat, sharp edge.

My money's on "unfinished road repairs" rather than the weather and "general wear and tear".

(PS - Mr Uzzell must have been very close the kerb, to hit it, IMO).

posted by brooksby [150 posts]
10th March 2014 - 14:35

7 Likes

brooksby wrote:
I saw a picture of the pothole in question on the BBC news last night. Not exactly a pothole as we usually understand it - it looked like someone had very neatly cut out the tarmac for about six inches around a road drain and about six inches straight down. No crumbling or anything like that, just a very neat, sharp edge.

My money's on "unfinished road repairs" rather than the weather and "general wear and tear".

(PS - Mr Uzzell must have been very close the kerb, to hit it, IMO).

Surely that's a fundamental point - leaving such a dangerous artifact is a bit more serious than simply not repairing at all?

Last night I would have considered trading a very loud baby for a really nice bike.

posted by notfastenough [3310 posts]
10th March 2014 - 15:22

16 Likes

There was a very similar looking pothole in my road that formed a few weeks ago, very deep, sharp edges, and next to a manhole.

I dont normally like the idea of sueing, however in this instance it has to be done. Hopefully the court will award large damages (please dont settle out of court) that will hopefully make councils reassess their approach to road maintenance

We have all seen near misses like this, and in my neck of the woods, I would say 95% of roads have at least a short section that is dangerous to cyclists due to the surface.

There are sections on the a31 (not a recommended cycling road) that resemble a byway more than a 2 lane dual carriageway.

posted by balmybaldwin [38 posts]
10th March 2014 - 17:14

9 Likes

As long ago as 2007 I was writing to Edinburgh council trying to explain to them how dangerous some of the roads around here were becoming to cyclists, and that it was only a matter of time before someone lost their life because of them. Well it has happened; not here in Edinburgh, but it has happened.

I'd echo other comments made on this and the earlier story, to the effect that I think councils really don't understand that a road surface considered "passable" for vehicles with 4+ wheels, shock absorbers and large, comparatively low pressure tyres, is a death trap for cyclists and, to a slightly lesser extent, motorcyclists.

The danger many road surfaces pose is also hugely compounded by the requirement to look out for and avoid the worst bits. When you're constantly dodging potholes and ruts, you are much less aware of other developing hazards.

seven's picture

posted by seven [115 posts]
10th March 2014 - 19:33

1 Like

i will mention that a bad surface is not just a risk for the cyclist but also results in drivers paying attention to the road surface rather than their surroundings. So the drivers are more of a risk

mrmo's picture

posted by mrmo [1177 posts]
10th March 2014 - 19:55

3 Likes

I'd have to agree with litigation. Unfortunately you can sign petitions all week long but they are ignored, especially when it concerns tax dodging red light jumping lycra louts like us whom it seems all need to work harder so we can afford cars...groan.

Money talks, reality of the world. Ask and you'll get nowhere, sue and they can't ignore you. If enough sue we'll strangely find that road safety is bumped up the agenda, not because it's getting expensive of course, but because the authorities care about your well being Day Dreaming

Hating our selfish and ignorant car culture

posted by ironmancole [143 posts]
10th March 2014 - 21:12

1 Like

“Our sympathies remain with the family of Martyn Uzzell following his tragic fatal accident.”

It wasn't an accident, it looks like the multiple failings of a local authority !

posted by Urban_Manc [14 posts]
10th March 2014 - 21:39

5 Likes

We can but hope that Kate Uzzell's litigation is successful and that NYCC have to pay substantial damages (Yes! I am aware that the councils money comes from local rate-payers).

Maybe other councils will then take note and decide that it may be cheaper to repair the roads than wait to be sued.

posted by levermonkey [378 posts]
10th March 2014 - 22:12

3 Likes

Errr …….. the process for obtaining compensation for her loss is through a civil action against the NY council. Why is this such a surprise to people on here? Are people stupid? The council aren't suddenly going to dip into their back pockets unless a claim is made. It is that simple. People don't seem to be able to grasp this. I hope she gets millions, she should if her hubby had a good job with excellent benefits which obviously has been lost as he was killed by the council's negligence and incompetence.
She needs a good solicitor though who will get as much out of the Council as possible for her and her family. Good luck to her.

Airzound

posted by Airzound [370 posts]
10th March 2014 - 23:18

4 Likes

I take a pic of bad potholes on my phone, the ones that are in line with cyclists at least and then report them. If they are dangerous enough to unsaddle a rider on a carriageway they are dangerous enough to kill.

When I report them I always add the comment "likely to unsaddle a rider into the path of moving traffic." They get fixed pretty quickly where I live, although the roads nationally are terrible. The repairs I've seen carried out I think a 10 year old could do with a seaside bucket and spade...

posted by Critchio [114 posts]
11th March 2014 - 22:11

2 Likes