Durban - Inertia on the part of the city and its lawyers is pushing up the hefty legal bill in what is potentially a R40 million damages claim by a motorcyclist left paraplegic 25 years ago.
It seems the city has also not properly prepared to counter the army of experts lined up by Scott Taylor for his hearing because, with only three months to go, it has not sent any of its experts to interview and assess him.
Taylor’s case made headlines in 2011 when the city settled on the issue of liability, conceding that it had been at fault when his motorcycle hit a pothole in Durban’s Botanic Gardens Road and agreeing to pay 75 percent of whatever claim he proved.
Taylor, now 44, the son of former Durban chief constable Alf Taylor, was 19 in February 1989 when, while returning home to Durban North from the then-technikon – where he was studying electronic engineering – he hit a pothole and crashed into a tree, fracturing his spine and leaving him in a wheelchair.
Because of prescription laws, Taylor’s lawyers served summons in 1990, but waited until liability laws were more favourable before taking the case further. The hearing is set down for 25 August to 5 September in the Durban High Court.
But on Monday Taylor’s lawyers were in court complaining there had been “silence” from the city for the past year when trial preparations should have been in full swing.
According to documents in the application before Judge Piet Koen, a pre-trial conference was held in March 2013. The city said at the time that it would respond by the end of April to a number of issues, including admissions regarding the evidence of experts and their expertise.
The list of experts includes neuro surgeon Dr Mike du Trevou, psychologist Professor Lourens Schlebusch, urologists, occupational therapists and physiotherapists.
Taylor’s attorney, Kasagie Naidoo, said there had been no response from the city, despite a letter of reminder sent in January 2014.
“We have started our trial preparation and unfortunately we have had to reserve all of our experts because of this lack of response. We are incurring unnecessary costs and we are being prejudiced.”
Naidoo said Taylor – a cash and debit controller who left South Africa 13 years ago and who was living in Devon, England – had twice made himself available for assessment by the city’s experts.
In terms of the arrangements the city was to pay for him and a caregiver to come to South Africa for examinations, or Taylor would make himself available overseas.
In January, Naidoo wrote to the city’s lawyers, saying: “He was available in August, but you did not take up the invitation. He is now available in the last two weeks of March.”
This offer was also not taken up.
In terms of an order taken by consent, the city agreed to respond by June 9 and to pay the costs of the application.