The lawyer who represented yoga teacher who was given a payout after she walked in front of a cyclist while on her phone says the rider blew an airhorn and accelerated towards the crowded crossing.
Clinical negligence barrister Aneurin Moloney, who represented claimant Gemma Brushett in court, has written a blog post that sheds more light on the incident.
>> Struggling to get to the shops? Try 6 issues of Cycling Weekly magazine for just £6 delivered to your door <<
In the post, Mr Moloney agrees with the judge’s finding that Brushett “significantly contributed” to the accident, but adds that cyclist Robert Hazeldean admitted he accelerated towards a crossing which was not clear of people and sounded an airhorn just before the collision.
Mr Moloney said: “A pedestrian crosses the road whilst looking at her mobile phone. She is seemingly unaware of an approaching cyclist, who had cycled through a green light. There is a collision and both reportedly suffer injuries. So why did the judge order that the cyclist must pay the pedestrian damages and legal costs, yet the cyclist gets nothing?
“Reading much of the recent press coverage of this case, one can be forgiven for thinking that this was an unusual and perhaps even unfair result. But was there more to it?”
The incident happened shortly after 5pm on July 20, 2015 in King William Street, near London Bridge in central London.
Robert Hazeldean had gone through a green light on a junction before Gemma Brushett, 28, stepped out further along the road while looking at her phone.
The pair were both knocked unconscious by the collision, with Hazeldean apparently travelling at between 10 and 15mph. He was left with cuts and bruises while Brushett, who works in finance in the City and also runs yoga retreats, suffered a head injury.
Despite the judge ruling the crash was 50 per cent Brushett’s fault, Hazeldean did not bring a counter-claim against her, with his lack of insurance also meaning he had to foot the legal bill as well as paying damages.
Mr Moloney’s blog post adds more detail to previous reports of the incident.
According to the barrister’s summary of evidence, Hazeldean sounded his airhorn while approaching the lights and then accelerated up to 10 to 15mph as he approached the crossing with pedestrians still in the road.
Brushett had almost crossed the road when she looked up from her phone, panicked and then stepped backwards, as Hazeldean shouted, applied his brakes and attempted to swerve but was unable to avoid the collision.
Hazeldean was unrepresented by lawyers when he drafted his initial defence and later instructed solicitors in October 2018, but a counterclaim was never filed.
District judge Shanti Mauger ordered Hazeldean to pay compensation and legal costs which are expected to exceed £20,000.
A fundraising campaign launched by a friend of the defendant has reached £55,000 to cover the legal costs, with any extra going to charity.
Mr Moloney, who says he has represented more cyclists than pedestrians and supports green transport like cycling, added: “There is more to this decision than many of the newspaper articles conveyed.
“Based on the judge’s finding that the claimant was using her mobile phone, it was absolutely correct that she was found to have significantly contributed to the accident. However, the defendant himself had conceded that he had accelerated towards a crossing which wasn’t clear of people.
“If any wider good has come from this case, it is that the publicity may encourage cyclists to take out insurance to protect themselves in the event that their riding causes someone to suffer injury.”
Hazeldean had not instructed solicitors immediately due to the cost and tried to defend himself.
Emma Farrell, the head of the personal injury team at Levi Solicitors, which eventually represented Hazeldean, said: “If Mr Hazeldean had been insured, the claimant’s legal costs would have been limited to a mere £6,690. If he had come to us sooner, we would have advised him to enter a counterclaim given that he has been left with permanent scarring, both physically and mentally. He would then have had protection under the law against a large costs order.”
After the case, Hazeldean said “Today finally brings to a close four years that have taken a great toll on my mental health. I am of course deeply disappointed with the outcome, reeling from the impact it will have on my life, and concerned by the precedent that it might set for other cyclists.
“I can only hope that the focus on this case highlights the vulnerability of cyclists, both physically and against the courts, and that it might help reform a legal system that appears to leave certain road users disproportionately exposed.”
Hazeldean also encouraged cyclists to take out insurance through British Cycling to avoid a similar situation.