EDF Energy tried to argue cyclist partly to blame - judge disagrees

A cyclist from Hertfordshire is set to receive a seven-figure sum in damages after winning a court case against a utility company and its contractors after he was hit by a lorry as he negotiated a pedestrian corridor through roadworks that failed to meet the minimum width required by law.

The accident, which happened in September 2006 in Park Street, St Albans, resulted in 27-year-old Alexander Kotula, a police officer from London Colney, facing the prospect of spending the rest of his life in a wheelchair.

The utility company, EDF Energy Networks, and its contractors, Morrison Utility Services Ltd and Birch Utilities Ltd, had admitted that they had failed to maintain a one-metre pedestrian passage throughout the roadworks.

However, they claimed in London’s High Court that Mr Kotula had been cycling along the pedestrian corridor rather than walking with his bike, and that part of the blame for the accident therefore lay with him, either because he negligently cycled on the pavement and through the roadworks, or because he walked through the pedestrian passage carelessly.

Judge Simon Brown, presiding over the case, disagreed, saying that the three companies were responsible for the victim’s injuries.

“The defendants were wholly responsible for this accident in laying out a very hazardous multi-layered trap of a narrow path on a curve with kerb across it,” he said in his decision, delivered yesterday.

He added that he believed was more likely that Mr Kotula, who had suffered from post-traumatic amnesia, had got off his bike by the time of the accident, adding that only an “extraordinary skilled” cyclist would have been able to safely negotiate the narrow passage.

According to the Herts 24 website, Mr Kotula will receive an interim payment of £50,000 while the full quantum of damages, which are likely to run into millions of pounds, are assessed.

Born in Scotland, Simon moved to London aged seven and now lives in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds with his miniature schnauzer, Elodie. He fell in love with cycling one Saturday morning in 1994 while living in Italy when Milan-San Remo went past his front door. A daily cycle commuter in London back before riding to work started to boom, he's been news editor at road.cc since 2009. Handily for work, he speaks French and Italian. He doesn't get to ride his Colnago as often as he'd like, and freely admits he's much more adept at cooking than fettling with bikes.