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Sailor wins court battle for bike crash damages

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Simon Reynolds of Whitstable
Simon Reynolds of Whitstable

Whitstable windsurfer and sailor Simon Reynolds “recklessly” caused the crash which left him with severe head injuries during a cycle race on a works team bonding day, a High Court judge ruled on Friday.

But his bosses must pay damages for not making him wear a crash helmet which would have saved him from serious injury said the judge, during a two hour judgment.

Judge Stephen Oliver-Jones QC said that 49-year-old Mr Reynolds caused the crash as the result “of a deliberately and tragically successful attempt” to put a rival out of the race, and was guilty of contributory negligence.

He rejected the claim that it was a “momentary error of judgment” or that he was guilty of momentary carelessness in the excitement of the race.

He had moved over to stop rival Alastair Cracknell from overtaking as they rounded the last bend and “acted with reckless disregard for his own safety and that of Mr Cracknell,” said the judge.

He “behaved in an aggressive manner reckless as to the consequences,” added the judge who found him two thirds to blame, after both finished up hitting the tarmac.

But he found that his then employers, estate agents Strutt & Parker, were one third to blame, by being in breach of the duty of care they owed their employees.

He was seeking more than £300,000 for his injuries but will get only one third of any award eventually made.

The judge, who was only deciding the question of liability, said the employers failed to carry out a proper risk assessment which would have made it clear that all cyclists taking part in the series of races should have worn a helmet which was available.

As it turned out only one out of the 12 cyclists wore a helmet, and that was Mr Cracknell who emerged from the crash relatively uninjured.

Expert evidence was that if Mr Reynolds had worn a helmet he too would have escaped serious injury, said the judge.

The race was part of a team bonding day organised by the estate agents for members of their Canterbury office at Fowlmead Country Park near Deal in June 2008.

Mr Reynolds, of Island Wall, had recently been promoted to an Associate Planning and Development Officer by the company.

He was made redundant even though he had made a good recovery from his injuries following the accident

Despite finding Mr Reynolds had caused the accident, the judge said he "wished him well".

He said: “I do appreciate he has gone through a good deal of suffering."

The company denied liability and are considering an appeal, after the judge ordered them to pay £150,000 on account of the estimated £400,000 bill of the solicitor’s acting for Mr Reynolds who had taken the case on a no win no fee basis.

Mr Reynolds declined to comment as he left court.

Another hearing to assess damages will now take place unless a settlement can be reached.

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