£5.3 million compensation for Bristol cyclist who suffered life-changing injuries as a teenager

Damages set after Court of Appeal found cyclist and motorist equally at fault for November 2005 incident

A Bristol cyclist left with life-changing injuries in 2005, when he was aged 16, after he was involved in a collision with a car driven by a fellow teenager has been awarded £5.3 million in compensation by the High Court in London. The award, which follows several years of legal wrangling, is based on a 50:50 apportionment of responsibility for the incident between the parties involved.

Toby Phethean-Hubble, now aged 24, sustained severe brain injuries that left him unable to move following the incident near Whitchurch in November 2005, when he was riding home and moved off the footway into the path of a car driven by Sam Coles, then aged 17, and who had recently passed his driving test.

Toby was not wearing a helmet and his bike was not displaying lights, and at the original trial, the judge found him one-third liable for his injuries. The motorist took the case to the Court of Appeal, which last year ruled that each party shared equal responsibility.

An analysis of that decision and the one in the original case last year by Martin Porter QC, who blogs as The Cycling Silk, highlights that Coles had been driving at 35mph in a 30mph area, and that the original trial judge had agreed that he should have anticipated the cyclist moving into his path and cut his speed accordingly to 26 or 27mph.


The Court of Appeal agreed with the original judgment on that point, albeit with “'considerable anxiety,” according to Porter.

However, it also held that despite Toby’s age at the time of the incident, the original trial judge was wrong to decrease the contributory negligence aspect to one third, saying instead that he should be treated as though he were an adult.

Porter also highlighted one aspect of the Court of Appeal’s ruling that he said was
“potentially a significant development of the law which may be of real assistance to cyclists (and other injured Claimants),” writing:

Perhaps the most important observation to be derived from this case is that the burden of proving that Tobias's injuries would have been of similar severity even had Sam been travelling at a safe speed rested on the Defendant. 

Once the Claimant had established that the Defendant was in breach of his duty of care and that the Claimant had sustained an injury of the kind likely to be caused by that breach then it is incumbent upon the Defendant to disprove causation.

In the years since suffering those life-changing injuries, Toby has staged what his father Bruce Phethean-Hubble described yesterday as a “truly remarkable" recovery which he attributed to Toby’s “amazing drive,” reports The Bristol Post.

He can now walk with the help of frame, and is also participating in shooting and plans to take up archery.

His mother, Shani Phethean-Hubble, said that the compensation would mean he could begin to lead an independent life, helping pay for his care as well as accommodation.

"I'm just glad it's all over. I hope now he can just get on with his life," she commented.

Lawyers on both sides of the case paid tribute to the youngster’s family in helping him overcome his injuries.

His own lawyer, Susan Rodway QC, said: "It is a testament to the rehabilitation he has had from the NHS, and the considerable support of his family, in very straitened circumstances, that Tobias is now able to walk and move around – although with help."

Defence lawyer Ben Browne QC added: "It is right to acknowledge that he has received ceaseless and devoted care from his family – particularly his mother and father, and in very difficult circumstances."

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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