Judge permits claims by victims’ relatives despite legal oversight
A judge has ruled damages actions by relatives of some of those killed in the Glasgow bin lorry tragedy can proceed, despite a failure in the legal process.
Lord Doherty said they would be “very materially prejudiced” if he did not exercise his power to let the claims against Glasgow City Council proceed.
The judge said: “The probable consequences would be very significant upset for the pursuers and material delay in obtaining reparation.
“That upset and delay
“Detrimental effects on the pursuers’ mental health”
would be likely to have significant detrimental effects on the pursuers’ mental health.”
Eight relatives brought the compensation actions against the council after the bin lorry driven by Harry Clarke left the road in Glasgow city centre on December 22 2014.
Those who died were Erin McQuade, 18, her grandparents Jack Sweeney, 68, and his 69-year-old wife Lorraine, from Dumbarton, Stephenie Tait, 29, and Jacqueline Morton, 51, both from Glasgow, and Gillian Ewing, 52, from Edinburgh. Others were injured.
The Crown did not prosecute Clarke and efforts by relatives for a private prosecution were refused.
The eight were granted an order at the Court of Session in Edinburgh preventing publication of details leading to their identification.
The relatives raised an action against the council last December but it fell as the summons was not called in time.
The latest action was raised in June with lawyers for the relatives arguing the court should use its powers and allow it to proceed – despite the council’s argu- ment that it was time barred. It was agreed that delay may have a significant effect on the relatives’ psychological condition and particularly with one who has developed serious mental health problems.
It was also agreed that while the summons was lodged with the court a calling slip was not presented due to a procedural oversight that was “a genuine error”.
A clinical psychologist who assessed some of the relatives, said they were struggling with the impact of the deaths and the stress of the continuing legal case.
Lord Doherty said the failure to have the summons in the initial action called in time was an oversight but the relatives’ law- yers had otherwise acted “in an exemplary way”.
The judge said the relatives’ only alternative, if the action did not proceed, was to sue their solicitors for professional negligence.
And while this was “very likely to succeed”he said they would have to find new representation in a process that was likely to be “difficult and challenging”.
AFTERMATH: Fire crews at the scene of the catastrophic Glasgow bin lorry crash, which happened on December 22 2014