A cyclist who suffered brain damage in a crash when a banker’s cocker spaniel darted across his path as he rode to work has won a court battle for a payout.
David Crane, 70, fell off his bicycle after braking hard to avoid Carina Read’s dog, Felix, on Acton Green Common, West London, in March 2016.
The ‘seasoned cyclist’, from Chiswick, hit his head after being catapulted over the handlebars while trying to avoid ploughing into the animal as it chased after a ball.
Publishing boss Mr Crane sued Ms Read for up to £50,000 in compensation, with his lawyers telling Central London County Court the 48-year-old was negligent in failing to properly control Felix, who should not have been allowed to stray into his path.
Ms Reid denied any blame, insisting that the accident was a ‘freak occurrence’ and that Felix only ran in front of the bike because he was ‘stunned’ after the thrown ball hit him on the head.
She also claimed Mr Crane was going too fast and should not have been riding on the path as it was out of bounds to cyclists in line with local bylaws.
But Judge Patrick Andrews has now ruled that Ms Read was negligent, having failed to call back Felix as he shot towards the path and the oncoming cyclist.
He said in his ruling: ‘After considering all the facts and evidence, I find that on balance of probabilities, in failing to call back Felix, which she clearly had time to do, Ms Reid exposed Mr Crane to risk of injury.’
It means Mr Crane is entitled to a damages payout, the amount of which will be assessed at a future hearing.
Mr Crane, who has ridden a bike around London for over 40 years without mishap, told the court in evidence that he was cycling with care and at no more than 5mph when the dog ran in front of him.
He said the accident occurred in a ‘split second’, adding: ‘The first time I was aware of the dog was when it was right in front of me.’
Mr Crane denied claims that he was hurrying to get to work on time or that he was riding too fast, telling the court that he was incapable of speeding because he weighed 18st at the time.
The court heard the publishing executive sustained a ‘not insignificant brain injury’ as a result of the crash.
His barrister Helen Pooley said it affected his hearing, memory, concentration and ability to drive, plaguing him with headaches and impairing his sense of taste and smell.
Ironically, Mr Crane, who declared himself ‘100% a dog lover’, said outside court that he has now taken to walking friends’ dogs for exercise as he can no longer ride his bike or enjoy skiing.
Ms Read’s barrister Nigel Lewers told the court she should be cleared of any blame.
He said that the path was clear when she threw the ball for Felix, but it bounced off the dog’s head as he chased it, deflecting it towards the footpath.
Mr Lewers added: ‘At that point, she became aware of Mr Crane cycling at speed with his head down.
‘She tried to warn him, but Felix chased the ball across the path and was struck by the front wheel of the bicycle.
‘She was doing what she and no doubt many others had done in the same or similar areas of the common – throwing a ball for her dog down an open strip of grass and not in the direction of the path.’
Ms Read said Felix seemed ‘momentarily stunned’ when he was accidentally hit on the head by the ball.
Her barrister added: ‘The chance of Felix deflecting the ball beyond the daffodils and across the path must have been remote.’
But giving his ruling on the case, Judge Andrews found that Ms Read should have done more to keep Felix in check.
The dog should have been warned and called back, he said, and questioned whether it was safe to have thrown the ball when Felix was so close to the path.
Mr Crane, who was wearing a helmet, had said he did not hear any shout of warning from Ms Read as the dog converged with his route and ‘had no time to take any evasive action when Felix ran across his path’, explained the judge.
Ms Read had insisted in her evidence that Felix was a ‘well-trained dog who returned when he was called’, noted Judge Andrews, concluding that she had not called the dog back and so was liable to pay damages.
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