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R21.5m for pothole victim

File picture: Itumeleng English

File picture: Itumeleng English

Published Feb 3, 2015

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Durban - Former Durban student Scott Taylor – who was left a paraplegic after he hit a pothole in Botanic Gardens Road almost 26 years ago – has been awarded damages of just 50 cents short of R21.5 million by the eThekwini Municipality in terms of a settlement agreement made an order of the Durban High Court on Monday.

Taylor’s case against the city was being closely watched by the legal fraternity because his lawyers, while filing a claim soon after his motorbike accident in February 1989, tactically waited until liability laws in South Africa were more favourable to these types of claim before proceeding with it.

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“It has taken a very long time,” Taylor told The Mercury on Monday.

“I am letting it all settle in. But everything will be a lot easier now,” he said.

“Not that I have not been getting on with my life… but it has given me peace of mind.”

In terms of the court order, Taylor, who turns 46 next month, will receive R16 499 999.50. He received R5 million in September last year which, along with a costs contribution of R500 000, was proffered by the city at the time when the case was delayed because it had not briefed its own experts.

Monday’s order included a further amount of R30 000 to be paid to Taylor’s father, former Chief Constable Alf Taylor, for expenses he incurred after the accident.

It also included what will be an expensive costs order – sources saying it will exceed the previous one – including the costs of 13 experts, four of whom live overseas and would have set aside time, booked accommodation and flights in order to come to Durban to testify at what was expected to be a two-week trial to determine quantum, after the city conceded to 75% liability two years ago.

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Taylor, who did not wish to be photographed – was 19 years old and travelling back to his Durban North home from technikon, where he was studying electronic engineering, when he hit the pothole, crashed into a tree and fractured his spine.

He said his own stubbornness and support of family and friends got him through those early days.

“I was also young, so I was more adaptable.”

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Now married and working as a cash and debt controller in Devon, he left South Africa on his own 15 years ago after being made redundant and struggling to get another job “because I was in a wheelchair”.

“I sold everything I owned, packed my own suitcase and left.”

Did he think life would be easier there?

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“A bit,” he says.

“But I find if you are given everything then you don’t achieve much. I have the best of both worlds. I do get some benefits (from living in the UK), but having lived in Africa, I also know that you have to go out and get it. I have never not worked.

“I live as normal a life as possible. This (settlement) has given me the financial security I needed. I want to spend it wisely.

“But everything will be easier now. I won’t have to stress about saving for new wheelchairs or adapted cars.

“And we will be buying a (single storey) bungalow which will be adapted for me and my needs.”

He praised his legal team, Lucy Naidoo, David Grindlay and advocate Mark Oliff, saying that while it had taken a long time, he knew his matter was in “safe hands”.

“The biggest frustration was the slow pace of the council in responding to things. But it is a relief that the matter settled and I didn’t have to testify.”

Taylor will return to the UK soon.

The Mercury

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