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Cyclist left in wheelchair after accident in line for seven-figure damages

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.
 

Simon has been news editor at road.cc since 2009, reporting on 10 editions and counting of pro cycling’s biggest races such as the Tour de France, stories on issues including infrastructure and campaigning, and interviewing some of the biggest names in cycling. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, his background has proved invaluable in reporting on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, and the bike industry. He splits his time between London and Cambridge, and loves taking his miniature schnauzer Elodie on adventures in the basket of her Elephant Bike.

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