Norwich teacher is cleared of blame over Cawston road crash

A Norwich primary school teacher was yesterday cleared of blame for a horrific road smash which left a teenage cyclist seriously injured.

Philippa Ede was only 16 in July 2006 when she suffered brain injuries in a crash with Laura Whitwood's Ford Fiesta on the B1149 Holt Road, near Cawston.

As well as her serious brain damage, Miss Ede suffered fractured ribs and damage to her spine and eye, which has left her with double vision.

This week, through her lawyers, she sued the 25-year-old teacher and former Cambridge University student for a massive damages package at the High Court.

But after two days of evidence, Judge Patrick Moloney QC said Miss Whitwood had taken all the precautions necessary to avoid an accident.

The London court heard Miss Whitwood, then only 19, was on her way to a friend's birthday celebration when she collided with the youngster's bike at the junction with Buxton Road.

Lawyers for Miss Ede, of Yaxley's Lane, Aylsham, accused Miss Whitwood of driving too quickly for that part of the road and not paying enough attention to potential hazards.

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But the judge said the teacher, of Portland Street, Norwich, had done all that could reasonably be expected of her as she approached the junction.

High-growing crops and a sign obscured the road, he said, and, because the teacher knew the dangers, she had slowed as she approached the crossroads.

'In my view, the law does not require a reasonable driver to have at all times to assume and plan for the very worst that could happen in a normal road situation, which is what the claimant's case amounts to,' said the judge.

'My conclusion is that the precautions Miss Whitwood here took, though sadly not adequate for the dramatic and unexpected and unpredictable emergency with which she was confronted, did meet the standard of the reasonable driver in the situation.

'She was not in breach of duty; she was driving at a proper speed and keeping a proper lookout. With great regret, because I know that this means that Miss Ede will not recover redress for her serious injuries, I conclude that the claim must fail.'

He said whatever had happened, Miss Ede herself must bear a proportion of the blame, having made a 'serious error' in riding out into the junction. Neither Miss Ede, nor Miss Whitwood, were present in court for the judgment.

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