Highlands & Islands

Caithness crash victim's son loses gritting claim

Road salt
Image caption Danny Ryder had challenged Highland Council's road gritting policy

The son of a woman who died in a crash has failed in an attempt to sue a council over the way it grits roads.

Anne Ryder, 36, of Huna, near John O'Groats, lost control of her car on the A99 near Freswick Burn as she drove to work in Wick in December 2008.

Her son Danny, 21, of Banchory, claimed her accident could have been avoided if Highland Council had gritted or salted the road in good time.

He sought £50,000 damages from Highland Council, which contested the claim.

In his action, raised at the Court of Session in Edinburgh, Mr Ryder said the road was not treated before his mother set off for work early in the morning.

Lawyers acting for Mr Ryder said that in the light of the forecast, and other information available to the council, the risks involved in not carrying out further gritting on the evening of 8 December - the day before the accident - were "too great".

Highland Council contested liability in the action and maintained that it fulfilled all duties placed on it.

It said it fully implemented its winter maintenance policy at the time, which was similar to that of other rural local authorities.

'Close relatives'

Judge Lord Tyre said he was satisfied that ice had caused Mrs Ryder to lose control of her car.

But he said that he considered on the balance of probabilities that any salt spread at the accident scene on the afternoon, or evening, of 8 December would have been washed off by rain.

Lord Tyre said he considered the contention that the accident victim's death was caused by a failure to pre-treat the roads had to be rejected.

He said the case also contained an attack on a key element in the local authority's winter road maintenance programme following the council's decision not to operate a 24-hour treatment service.

But the judge said he considered that the decision on whether or not to allocate resources for such a programme for priority one routes in the Highlands fell into the category "which this court is not fitted to determine".

The judge said that if Mr Ryder had succeeded in his claim he would have awarded him £40,000.

Lord Tyre said: "I take into account that the deceased was only 36 and the pursuer only 17 at the date of the accident, and that he could and would have expected his mother to remain an important part of his life for many years to come."

"He is especially unfortunate in having no other close relatives to provide him with support."

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