A pedestrian who claimed compensation after being mangled under the wheels of a bus in Bradford could be left over £80,000 out of pocket after being hit with a massive legal costs bill in the Court of Appeal.
Satnam Rehill, 54, of Bradford, was crushed under the wheels of the single- decker in the city centre after he crossed the road against a “red man” on a controlled pedestrian crossing three days after Christmas in 2005.
He was trapped for two-and-a-half hours under the wheels of the vehicle and suffered broken bones, pelvic and abdominal injuries and loss of tissue.
Mr Rehill sued bus operators, Rider Holdings Ltd, for damages and in 2007 was offered £100,000 to settle his claim, which he refused, claiming he deserved in the region of £175,000.
However, Mr Rehill eventually accepted just £17,500 in 2012, following allegations that he had exaggerated his claim and a court decision that he bore equal responsibility with the bus driver for the accident.
Yesterday, Lord Justice Lewison and Lord Justice Floyd completed the injured man’s woe by ordering him to pay legal costs estimated by lawyers at £100,000. The court heard that, although the bus was only going slowly, its wheel ran over Mr Rehill, causing devastating crushing injuries.
An eye witness described Mr Rehill trying to grab at the bus with his hand and shouting “Stop!” as it bore down on him. The bus lifted up as it went over him and Mr Rehill was screaming as the bus carried on down Hall Ings with him trapped underneath.
Lawyers for the bus company yesterday asked the court to overturn a previous order that it ought to pay its own legal costs prior to June 2009, arguing that Mr Rehill ought to foot the bill because he had “unreasonably” refused their offers to settle the case and had “dishonestly inflated” his claim.
Rodney Ferm, for Mr Rehill, admitted there had been “significant exaggeration”, but argued that the crash victim had not known the severity of his injuries and so had been acting reasonably when the offers to settle were rejected. Lord Justice Lewison slammed Mr Rehill’s exaggeration of his symptoms, calling it a “bogus claim”. He said: “He arrived at court in a wheelchair and said he could not walk the length of the court, but the judge accepted the evidence of one of his carers that he could walk up the stairs at home.”
Hitting Mr Rehill with the crushing legal costs bill, Lord Justice Lewison said: “In my judgement it was unreasonable of Mr Rehill not to have accepted the offer of £100,000 to settle the claim made in November 2007.”
Mr Ferm said outside court that, whilst an insurance policy had protected Mr Rehill from previous costs orders, that has now been withdrawn, and he will have to meet the bus company’s costs between 2007 and 2009, as well as the costs of the appeal.
Lawyers for Rider Holdings Ltd, outside court, estimated their costs between November, 2007 and June, 2009, at £100,000.