Durban - A motorcyclist rendered a paraplegic when he hit a pothole in Durban 24 years ago has upped his initial R3 million claim against eThekwini Municipality to almost R40 million - an expense that will have to be borne by the ratepayers should he succeed.
Scott Taylor, 43, a cash and debit controller who left South Africa 13 years ago and who now lives in Devon, England, has secured seven expert witnesses, including a neurosurgeon, clinical and industrial psychologists, a disability nurse and physiotherapist to assist him in his claim for past and future medical expenses, loss of earnings and general damages.
Taylor, the son of Alf Taylor, the former chief constable of Durban, was 19 and studying electronic engineering when the accident happened in Botanic Gardens Road while he was returning home to Durban North from the former Natal Technikon in February 1989.
As he approached the intersection of Sydenham and Botanic Gardens Road, he said he felt his motorbike jolt. Taylor slid, going over the kerb and hitting a tree.
He fractured his spine and damaged his spinal cord, leaving him paraplegic.
He lodged a claim against the municipality in 1990, but his lawyers did not set it down for hearing because laws at the time were unfavourable to these sorts of claims. However, with changes in liability laws, they set the matter down last year, relying on a report by accident reconstruction expert Craig Proctor-Parker, who said it was “highly probable” potholes were the direct cause of the accident.
The municipality’s own expert said that there appeared to have been negligence in “pothole repair technique”. The municipality’s lawyers agreed to accept liability for the accident, agreeing to pay 75 percent of whatever claim Taylor eventually proved.
Last month, Taylor submitted an amended claim of R9.5 million as well as a £2.1m (about R28.7 million) claim for diminished earning capacity and future loss of earnings.
On Tuesday, he went to court to get a provisional payment of medical expenses and loss of earnings.
His lawyers, in papers that came before Judge President Chiman Patel on Tuesday, argued that since settling on the issue of liability in October 2011, the municipality had not engaged any of its own experts who were delaying the matter.
But the municipality’s chief legal adviser, Alisande Bradshaw, argued that the case had been difficult to defend because of the time lapse and because Taylor now lived overseas.
In papers before the court, the municipality’s lawyers labelled Taylor’s claim as “highly debatable and contentious”, saying it should be subjected to rigorous scrutiny at a hearing. This “is particularly important where payments will come from public funds generated from ratepayers”.
The lawyers said the municipality could “sensibly” engage its own experts only once Taylor had amended his claim, which he had only done early last month.
In terms of a settlement agreement, the municipality agreed to make an interim payment of just more than R61 000.
The matter was adjourned for a date to be set for the hearing of the claim.