Pothole cyclist Lauren Wilkinson receives £7k after long-running legal dispute

A HAIRDRESSER who shattered her jaw after cycling into a pothole in York has won £7,360 damages from council bosses.

Lauren Wilkinson, then 17, was travelling to work at a salon in Whitby Drive, Heworth, in May 2006, when her front wheel went into the pothole, London’s Civil Appeal Court heard yesterday.

She hurtled head-first over the handlebars on to the road, fracturing her lower jaw in two places.

Lord Justice Toulson, who ruled City Council of York liable for her injuries, said she had since made a good recovery, although they had a traumatic effect at the time.

Miss Wilkinson, formerly of Allington Drive, York, sued the council as highway authority, alleging it had negligently failed to properly maintain the road.

Lord Justice Toulson, sitting with Lord Justice Chadwick and Lord Justice Wilson, said Miss Wilkinson and her boyfriend surveyed the site of the accident afterwards and found the pothole was four centimetres deep and 30cm wide.

She initially won her damages claim at York County Court in September 2009, when a district judge awarded her £7,360 damages and criticised the council’s failure to carry out sufficiently regular inspections on the road. However, he ruled Miss Wilkinson 50 per cent to blame in failing to keep a proper look-out.

The council challenged the finding, insisting it should not be held responsible at all – and a circuit judge ruled in the local authority’s favour at Leeds Crown Court in February last year.

The marathon dispute finally spilled over into the Appeal Court yesterday as Miss Wilkinson launched a last ditch bid for the right to a payout.

Upholding her appeal, Lord Justice Toulson said: “The obligation to maintain the highway is a fundamental obligation of very long standing.”

He said the circuit judge was wrong to “interfere” with the ruling of the district judge who had made firm findings of fact after hearing the evidence.

The district judge had found that the council should have carried out regular inspections on Whitby Drive at least every six months, if not every three months.

Lord Justice Toulson said: “This was a road which served a broader population. The district judge was fully entitled to conclude that it was the sort of road for which an inspection once a year was inadequate.”

The Appeal Court’s ruling gives Miss Wilkinson the right to collect her £7,360 damages.

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