Midlothian coach company to pay death damages

The Allan's Group garage at Newtonloan.
The Allan's Group garage at Newtonloan.

A widower, whose wife died after she was struck by a tour bus, has been awarded undisclosed damages from a Midlothian coach company.

Douglas Cassells sued Newtonloan-based Allan’s Group in the Court of Session as he believed the actions of the firm’s employee Brian Alexander caused the death of his partner Rachel almost four years ago.

Mrs Cassells (50) worked as a catering assistant for Edinburgh Woollen Mill at their Trossachs shop, near Callander, Stirlingshire. She died after a bus, being driven by Mr Alexander, collided with her in the car park at the store on April 4, 2015. Rachel from Stirling, had come out to greet tourists on the bus.

Lawyers acting for Mr Cassells claimed that Mr Alexander had not been taking sufficient care in the moments before his vehicle struck Rachel. They argued that if he had been paying attention, he’d have seen Rachel standing in the car park and wouldn’t have struck her.

Lawyers for the company argued that Mr Alexander’s actions were not negligent and that Mr Alexander did everything he could in the moments before the collision.

However, in a written judgement, issued at the Edinburgh court last week, judge Lady Carmichael ruled in favour of Mr Cassells.

Mr Cassells, also from Stirling, also sued his late wife’s employers. Lady Carmichael also ruled against Edinburgh Woolen Mill.

Mr Cassells, who originally sued the two companies for £700,000, will now receive an undisclosed sum for damages. Lady Carmichael ruled his wife’s actions were partly negligent and that this caused the award to be reduced by 30 per cent.

Lady Carmichael wrote: “I regard the driver of the bus as primarily responsible for the accident and injury to Mrs Cassells which resulted in her death.

“The risk of harm posed by a large vehicle in collision with a pedestrian is obviously relevant in considering causative potency.

“That said, I regard the second defenders as bearing a significant share of the responsibility.

“The risk of injury to employees in the car park was obvious and not mitigated by the very straightforward and practical measures which would have been open to second defenders and which they adopted after the accident.

“I therefore apportion liability as set out above.”

The court heard that just before the collision, Mrs Cassells approached the bus as it was in mid manoeuvre.

The court heard that following the collision Mr Alexander told police officers that the sun was low in the sky and that it obscured his view of what he could see.

Lady Carmichael concluded that Mr Alexander shouldn’t have been driving at that point. She added: “I considered it more likely than not that Mr Alexander’s vision was in some way impeded by the effects of the sun.

“He should not have attempted to move the bus while that was the case. That his vision was impeded would account for his failure to observe Mrs Cassells.

“If I am wrong about that and he was untruthful or inaccurate in conveying the impression that his vision in the mirror was impeded by the effects of the sun then it must be that he did not carry out the observations that I have found he ought to.”

The court also heard that Mrs Cassells’s employer did not carry out a risk assessment which considered the possibility of employees being struck in the car park by vehicles.

Lady Carmichael said the risk assessment was “inadequate” and that Mrs Cassells shouldn’t have been allowed to greet coaches in the car park.

She wrote: “Had there been a prohibition, I am satisfied that she would have respected it and the accident would not have occurred.”

Lady Carmichael also concluded that Mrs Cassells’s actions partly contributed to the collision.

She added: “I did however, accept that she approached a bus in a car park at a time when it was mid manoeuvre. She might have thought that it had stopped altogether but if exercising reasonable care for her own safety she should have taken into account that it was not stopped in a parking bay, and that generally required to turn in a similar way in order to reverse into the parking bays.

“She came very close to the bus while it was mid manoeuvre. To do so is obviously a risk to safety.

“So far as causative potency and moral blameworthiness are concerned, Mrs Cassells did not create a sudden hazard by running in front of the bus. She was a person on foot, vulnerable to injury by a large vehicle and acting in the course of her employment.

“The driver of the heavy vehicle with its obvious potential to cause serious harm and the employer must bear the greater part of the responsibility.

“I therefore recognise Mrs Cassells’s contribution to the loss, injury and damage sustained by the pursuers by making a finding of contributory negligence of 30 per cent.”

Allan’s Group declined the opportunity to comment.