North West Public Works pays the price in court case for not looking after road where biker crashed

North West Public Works pays the price in court case for not looking after road where biker crashed
North West Public Works pays the price in court case for not looking after road where biker crashed

Africa-Press – South-Africa. The North West High Court in Mahikeng has ruled that the provincial Department of Public Works and Roads is fully liable for damages sustained by a biker who ended up in a ditch because of a poorly maintained road.

Ryan Llewellyn Brews, a plaintiff in the case, was able to prove that the department was negligent and failed in its duties, leading to his collision in July 2015.

Brews, an experienced motorcyclist, was riding on the R512 near Broederstroom when he lost control of his bike while trying to manoeuvre severe undulations and surface bumps in the road.

He ended up in a ditch, injured and unconscious.

He testified that he did not remember if there was signage for a speed limit but had accepted that the general speed would have been 80km/h.

He told the court he could not have increased his speed because of heavy traffic and added that he had slowed down before the crash because of the unsafe conditions of the road.

An eyewitness who had been a passenger in a vehicle her husband was driving, stated in an affidavit that she had seen Brews’ bike shake and jump as the road curved, to the point where he lost control and left the road.

The witness saw Brews go over the handlebars and fall. She and her husband waited at the accident scene until an ambulance arrived to take him to hospital.

The court also heard from expert witnesses, Dr Louis Roodt, a civil engineer specialising in road design safety, and Willie Renier du Preez, also a civil engineer. Roodt testified on Brews’ behalf, while Du Preez testified for the department.

Roodt visited the scene in October 2015, while Du Preez visited the scene four years later in October 2019. The court noted that both agreed that the road where the crash occurred was in poor condition despite visiting the scene years apart.

The department argued that it had erected warnings and speed reduction signs with a 40km/h limit, claiming that Brews failed to abide by these.

It also denied that the road was unsafe for users.

However, the court cited photographic evidence from Roodt and Du Preez, saying it supported Brews’ allegations that the 40km/h speed limit signage warning was too close to the crash scene, which gave road users insufficient time to react.

In his ruling, Judge Andre Henry Petersen said:

Petersen ruled that the evidence against the department was overwhelming. He also dismissed its argument about Brews’ speed limit, stating that it did not contribute to the crash.

He said it was clear the department had not taken any reasonable or proper steps to maintain the road where the undulations occurred, prior to April 2015.

“A direct result of the lack of maintenance or proper maintenance is the road deteriorated as confirmed by both expert witnesses. The extent of the undulations is that it was dangerous. The overwhelming evidence demonstrates that as a result of the condition of the road it would impact a motorcycle rider on that portion of the road. That led to the plaintiff losing control of his motorcycle.”

The department was found to be 100% liable for damages. The amount of monetary compensation would be determined in a separate hearing.

Spokesperson for the Department of Public Works and Roads Matshube Mfoloe could not confirm if the department would challenge the High Court order.

The Department of Public Works and Roads has noted the High Court’s ruling on the matter, but will only be in a position to pronounce the way forward after carefully studying the full judgment, including other relevant court documents on the same matter. The senior counsel (SC) appointed by the department is in the process of formulating an opinion which will inform the way forward to conclude this matter based on the judgment,” he said.

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