Who is Gemma Brushett and why was a cyclist forced to pay the yoga teacher £100,000?
GEMMA Brushett was knocked unconscious after she was hit by a cyclist on a busy crossing in central London in 2015 while she was looking at her phone.
The controversial case went to court with the judge awarding Brushett damages and ordering the cyclist to pay her court costs.
Who is Gemma Brushett?
Brushett, 28, is a yoga teacher who brought the case against keen cyclist Robert Hazeldean.
Brushett sued the biker and was awarded a payout, despite Judge Shanti Mauger finding that she was equally to blame for the accident, and could have been sued herself by the cyclist.
At Central London County Court Judge Mauger awarded her £4,161.79 in damages after saying the 8mm scar she suffered to her lip did not wreck her “very attractive” appearance.
The judge also ordered Hazeldean to pay her legal bills, thought to be in the region of £100k, because he was not insured at the time of the crash.
He also blasted the “claim culture” as he called for reform of the legal system.
He added: “The case has cast a shadow over our new life in France and left our future uncertain.
“Covering the costs and the compensation is going to leave me bankrupt.
“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.
“Had I had legal representation at the time of preparing my defence, I would have taken those steps to protect myself.
“I would urge other cyclists to take out insurance through British Cycling to help protect them from experiencing what I’ve gone through.”
What did Robert Hazeldean say?
The landscape designer, who has since moved to Côte d’Azur in France to start a new life, said he was “deeply disappointed” by the decision and could be left “bankrupt”.
He 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 am more grateful than I can say for the support of my wonderful girlfriend and my friends and family. I would not have got through this without them.”
What happened in the accident?
The court heard that Brushett, who works for a finance firm in the City as well as running yoga retreats, was one of a “throng” of people trying to cross the road at the start of rush hour when the accident occurred.
She was looking at her mobile phone when crossing the road from east to west and only noticed Hazeldean approaching at the last moment.
She “panicked” and tried to dodge back to a traffic island, but the cyclist, who had been travelling at between 10-15mph, swerved in the same direction and hit her.
Hazeldean had come through a green traffic light, and had sounded a loud airhorn attached to his Specialized roadbike, as well as shouting, swerving and braking in a bid to avoid the pedestrian.
Both Brushett and Hazeldean were knocked out by the impact, with Brushett suffering cuts, cracked teeth and post-traumatic amnesia.
Judge Mauger said Hazeldean was “a calm and reasonable road user.”
But ruled he was liable to pay damages as “cyclists must be prepared at all times for people to behave in unexpected ways.”
Although Brushett was “was looking at her phone” when she walked into the road in front of him, Hazeldean knew the road was not entirely clear when he tried to ride through.
Why were the legal costs so high?
Emma Farrell, head of the Personal Injury team at Levi Solicitors, said Mr Hazeldean’s costs would have been limited to £6,000 if he had been insured.
She explained: “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.”
A spokesman for the company added: “We believe that the law in this area urgently needs reforming.”
Roger Geffen, Cycling UK policy director, also expressed fears for cyclists amid a “claim culture”.
Most read in news
He said: “It’s worth remembering that serious injuries to pedestrians from collisions involving cyclists are rare, and that the cyclist can also be seriously injured when they happen too.
“From media reports, it seems odd that the judge attributed responsibility on a 50/50 basis given their own reported comments on the case.
“However this case highlights why Cycling UK gives all our members third party insurance, and recommends regular cyclists taken out similar policies to protect them from this sort of situation.”