The Tshwane Metro Council is facing a R2.5 million damages claim from a Centurion resident who suffered brain damage in a car accident. He claims it was the fault of the council or the Gauteng MEC for public works, roads and transport.
Bryan Bret Schultz said in papers before the Pretoria High Court that on June 11, 2009, he was travelling along the Old Johannesburg Road towards the Panorama Crossing in Rooihuiskraal.
The road “suddenly and without warning” forked. There was no prior warning, so he could not manoeuvre his vehicle along the fork and lost control of it, he said.
Unemployed Schultz said the accident was caused by the fact that there were no warning signs alerting him to the fork and that he had to reduce speed.
He accused either the province or the council of being negligent as they allegedly did not erect warning signs along the road. They had a duty to maintain road signs and see to it that these were clearly visible to road users.
Schultz said one of the parties should have inspected the Old Johannesburg Road to ensure it was safe for road users.
He suffered a traumatic brain injury, fractures to the collarbone and ribs and lacerations in the accident, he said.
Only the province defended the matter at the time summonses were issued. It said it maintained the road within its budgetary constraints and there was a warning sign about 500m from the island, cautioning motorists to reduce speed.
There was another sign 300m from the island warning of the fork ahead, and two more warning signs closer to the fork. At the fork there were about six clearly visible chevrons indicating the fork ahead and an 84m-long island demarcated by reflective paint and road studs.
The accident was Schultz’s fault as he did not heed the warning signs, it argued.
The court earlier ordered by means of default judgment that the council was negligent and thus liable for the damages, in the light of the council’s not defending the action.
But this week the council asked the court to rescind the order, stating that it wanted to defend the matter.
Judge Natvarial Ranchod was told that “due to a lack of communication between the council and its insurance department… no steps were taken to defend the action”.
The council said it had a good defence as it was not liable to maintain this road.
The court was told that it would be “grossly unfair to punish a department working with public money – potentially to the tune of R2.5 million – due to a bona fide error that occurred in the offices of the attorney representing it”.
Judge Ranchod gave the council the go-ahead to apply to have the default judgment overturned, although the council was outside the time frame to do so.