Mother loses claim for civil damages

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A mother who lost her son in a road crash has now lost a civil claim seeking damages from the other driver involved.

Sandra Matthews-Wilson launched the case on behalf of her grandchildren, arguing that Lesley Cox was partially responsible for the death of Haile Matthews five years ago.

However, the Supreme Court found that Mr Matthews was wholly responsible for his own death.

Mr Matthews died when his motorcycle struck a car in the northbound lane of Montpelier Road in Devonshire.

At the time of the crash, Mr Matthews was travelling south and Ms Cox was travelling north.

Mrs Matthews alleged that Mrs Cox was “straddling” the centre line and that her son had been dragged more than 14 metres after being caught under the car.

Mrs Cox said she was driving well within her lane when Mr Matthews swerved, striking her car head-on.

A post-mortem examination revealed Mr Matthews had 206 milligrams of alcohol per 100 millilitres of blood, more than double the legal limit.

During the civil trial, Mrs Matthews said she had concerns about several errors in the police report, including the date of the accident, her son’s date of birth and the spelling of his name.

She alleged that the investigation into the crash had been biased and that Mrs Cox had been driving over the speed limit.

Mrs Cox, however, said she had done everything possible to avoid striking Mr Matthews, and had been travelling within the “unofficial” speed limit of 50km/h.

A police investigator testified that Mrs Cox was within her lane when the crash took place.

James Keenan, an expert for the plaintiff, argued Mrs Cox was straddling the centre line based on photographs of the scene.

Acting Justice Jeffrey Elkinson ruled in favour of Mrs Cox.

He said: “I find the defendant was not negligent in driving at the speed and in the manner she did prior to and at the time of the accident. I find that Mr Matthews was travelling at a speed much greater than that of Mrs Cox. The damage to the motor car was extreme.

“The pictures presented in evidence show extensive damage to the motor car and I find that if the defendant had been travelling at a lower speed, 35km/h being the legal limit, it would have been highly unlikely it would have made any difference to the outcome of this tragic motor accident.”

He added neither expert had put forward an explanation as to why Mr Matthews was in the wrong lane, but the alcohol in his blood likely played a significant factor.

Mr Justice Elkinson said: “I cannot accept the driving of the defendant in any way fell below the standard of a reasonable driver in Bermuda. She was not negligent and in all the circumstances the claim fails.”

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