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Cyclist paralysed in crash to sue Planet X insurers for £10 million

Rotherham-based manufacturer Planet X went into administration earlier this year, the company's insurers insisting that products were tested to "appropriate standards"...

An NHS doctor who suffered a broken spine and was paralysed in a crash allegedly caused by his Planet X gravel bike's forks being "sheared in two" during an off-road ride is suing the company's insurers for £10 million.

Documents seen by MailOnline reportedly show that Dr Daniel Gordon, an experienced off-road cyclist, was severely injured on the evening of 20th August 2020 during a "first proper test ride" on his newly bought Planet X Tempest SRAM Force 1 titanium gravel bike.

Riding down a "grassy slope" in the grounds of the New Craigs Hospital in Inverness, Dr Gordon's barrister Nathan Tavares KC says the "carbon fibre front forks suddenly and without warning sheared in two at the base of the steerer tube, causing the front wheel of the bike to collapse rearwards".

On impact the 30-year-old, who was working as a junior doctor at the hospital, suffered "severe life-changing injuries", including a broken spine as well as being paralysed.

Planet X entered administration earlier this year, Dr Gordon pursuing a claim "likely to be in the order of £10 million" against the company's insurers Arch Insurance (UK) Limited and Chubb European Group SE.

> Cyclist wins £6.1m in damages after driver hit him causing life-changing injuries – driver got £146 fine

A joint statement, submitted by law firms representing the insurers, denies Planet X's responsibility for the failure of the bike, and insists that the forks came from a "reputable supplier" and there is evidence they had been tested to "appropriate standards".

The statement said: "Planet X purchased the forks from a reputable supplier and there was evidence of the testing of the relevant products to appropriate standards, on which matters Planet X reasonably relied."

An investigation into the damage is ongoing but the statement also insisted that there have been "no complaints to Planet X or incidents referred to Planet X similar to that made by the claimant in respect of the said forks".

Having ridden along the A82 and the Caledonian canal, Dr Gordon turned towards New Craigs Hospital, his legal representation explaining that he was wearing a helmet and the bike was not fitted with any bags or luggage.

"Upon leaving the hospital location at around 9pm, he rode the bike down a grassy slope situated off a track running through the hospital grounds known as New Craigs Forresters," his barrister said.

"In the course of descending the grass slope at a speed of about 25km/hour (15.5 mph), which is terrain and a speed the claimant will say ought to have been well within the capabilities of the bike, the carbon fibre front forks suddenly and without warning sheared in two at the base of the steerer tube, causing the front wheel of the bike to collapse rearwards.

"This resulted in the claimant falling forwards heavily, impacting the ground whereupon he sustained severe life changing injuries.

"At the time of the accident, the claimant was a Foundation Year 2 doctor at Raigmore Hospital, Inverness. He lived with his Italian partner, now his fiancée, who is also a trainee doctor.

"In February 2021 they moved to more suitable wheelchair-accessible ground-floor accommodation. He subsequently returned to his medical training and now works 80 per cent of full time. His career options in medicine are now severely curtailed and he is significantly handicapped on the labour market.

"The claimant and his partner have not yet decided in which country they will live and pursue their medical careers once they completed their training."

Dr Gordon was initially treated at the hospital where he was working as a junior doctor, before being transferred to the Scottish Spinal Injuries Centre at Queen Elizabeth University Hospital in Glasgow.

Continuing his studies, the doctor has competed in para-triathlons since, vowing that his life is "not over" due to his injuries.

Planet X was sold to Winlong Garments Limited in June following a period of financial uncertainty and speculation. Amid rumours of redundancies and financial troubles, a Planet X director applied for a Notice of Intention to appoint an administrator on 1st June, the company refusing to comment on the situation.

Eight days later and the headlines were that the "future of Planet X [was] secured", and the jobs of all 33 employees saved, after it was purchased by a West Yorkshire retailer backed by private equity.

Dan joined road.cc in 2020, and spent most of his first year (hopefully) keeping you entertained on the live blog. At the start of 2022 he took on the role of news editor. Before joining road.cc, Dan wrote about various sports, including football and boxing for the Daily Express, and covered the weird and wonderful world of non-league football for The Non-League Paper. Part of the generation inspired by the 2012 Olympics, Dan has been 'enjoying' life on two wheels ever since and spends his weekends making bonk-induced trips to the petrol stations of the south of England.

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31 comments

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wtjs | 3 months ago
3 likes

On reading all this more carefully, I have now decided that I must take the fork right out and look at the most critical point. This seems to be the junction of the metal (I assume) steerer and the carbon legs. This is where the sudden critical failure seems likely to occur, and on reflection it seems likely I wouldn't detect that from hard front braking while pushing the bike. It will feel OK until it goes while braking a heavily laden bike going down hill

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wtjs | 3 months ago
1 like

I've had posh Reynolds carbon forks on my 22 year old Merlin titanium, which has had an easy life. Unsurprisingly, those forks look good (the incident above prompted an inspection). But the best and most useful bike I have ever had was bought in October 2019- the cheapest of cheap gravel bikes from Vitus at £650. I've had trouble with the rear wheel but otherwise it had been excellent. It must have the cheapest of cheap unbranded carbon forks, but they look undamaged as well and they have suffered some bashing and stress from braking a heavily loaded trailer. I now realise I must inspect these forks occasionally, on all my bikes. 

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absolute right | 3 months ago
0 likes

The test by the Consumer Protection Act and the product Liability Directive 85/374 is 'Satisfactory Quality as esposed in the lead case of Gee v DePuy. The defectiveness of the product should be determined by reference not to its fitness for use but to the lack of safety which the public at large is entitle to expect. The poor claimant will need to prove that a defect in the product appears to be the most plausible explanation for the occurrance of the damage with the result that the defect and the causal line may reasonably be considered to be established. So prove there was a defect and that defect caused the loss. End of. Happily, the C will succeed. 

Experience shows that insurers as a tend not to understand or want to understand this plain and simple concept. 

I wish the C and his family and team well

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EK Spinner | 3 months ago
2 likes

I remember a clubmate had some wobbly steering on his (planet X) TT bike, on further examination the (carbon) steerer tube was partially cut through (about 70%) at his spacers, we reckoned that a bit of hard grit had got in between the spacer and the steerer and had gradually worn it away.

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Boopop | 3 months ago
1 like

"his legal representation explaining that he was wearing a helmet".

Just as well, we all know front forks self-destruct if you ride a bike without wearing a helmet 🙄

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Brauchsel replied to Boopop | 3 months ago
2 likes

It does sound daft, but it'll be in his pleaded case so that the defence can't say that his injuries would have been less severe if he'd been wearing one. A finding of contributory negligence could greatly reduce an award even if the forks are found to be deathtraps.

It doesn't sound the sort of accident that a helmet would ameliorate, but his lawyers will be trying to counter the likely defences. Whatever the outcome, he has my sympathies and I wish him well. 

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hawkinspeter replied to Brauchsel | 3 months ago
3 likes
Brauchsel wrote:

It does sound daft, but it'll be in his pleaded case so that the defence can't say that his injuries would have been less severe if he'd been wearing one. A finding of contributory negligence could greatly reduce an award even if the forks are found to be deathtraps.

It doesn't sound the sort of accident that a helmet would ameliorate, but his lawyers will be trying to counter the likely defences. Whatever the outcome, he has my sympathies and I wish him well. 

I doubt that whether or not he was wearing a helmet would have any influence on an award due to contributory negligence as otherwise stab victims would have to declare whether or not they were wearing a stab vest, or gunshot victims were wearing a bulletproof vest.

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HoldingOn replied to hawkinspeter | 3 months ago
5 likes
hawkinspeter wrote:

I doubt that whether or not he was wearing a helmet would have any influence on an award due to contributory negligence as otherwise stab victims would have to declare whether or not they were wearing a stab vest, or gunshot victims were wearing a bulletproof vest.

only if they were on a bicycle.

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AidanR replied to hawkinspeter | 3 months ago
6 likes

There is precedent for not wearing a helmet being contributory negligence and reducing compensation claims.

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hawkinspeter replied to AidanR | 3 months ago
4 likes
AidanR wrote:

There is precedent for not wearing a helmet being contributory negligence and reducing compensation claims.

Was that the case in Ireland or another instance? Last time I looked, I couldn't find any examples in the UK.

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Steve K replied to hawkinspeter | 3 months ago
2 likes

Beat me to it - that was going to be my question.  

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AidanR replied to hawkinspeter | 3 months ago
1 like
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hawkinspeter replied to AidanR | 3 months ago
2 likes
AidanR wrote:

There are loads of cases in the UK: https://www.minsterlaw.co.uk/blog/2022/01/28/the-decision-to-wear-a-cycl...

Here we go…

  • From https://gatehouselaw.co.uk/injury-law-cycling-helmets-2/
    "Drinkall v Woodhall [2003] EWCA Civ 1547 while dealing with procedure, arose from an issue of whether 20% or higher was an appropriate reduction for contributory negligence against a then 14 year old girl injured while cycling and not wearing a cycle helmet. It should, however, be noted that the Judgment only refers to an 80:20 liability split and the Defendant’s wish to argue for a higher degree of contributory negligence because the claimant had not been wearing a helmet (paragraph 3). It is not clear if the 20% reduction originally agreed was on the basis of the failure to wear a helmet or for other reasons. No further facts of the accident are given. One should therefore be wary of drawing any conclusions on likely awards of contributory negligence from this case."
  • Smith v Finch [2009] EWHC 53 (QB):
    Case Report: https://scotways.com/ken/smith-v-finch/#:~:text=Decision%3A%20This%20was%20an%20English,failing%20to%20wear%20a%20helmet.
    Relevant bit: "In this case, the court found that the cyclist’s injuries would not have been reduced or prevented by the wearing of the helmet and contributory negligence, therefore, did not apply."
  • Capps v Miller [1989] 2 All ER 333:
    Not relevant as that involved a motorcyclist (your link incorrectly says cyclist) not fastening their helmet and helmets are mandatory for motorbikes.

A better discussion of it than your link can be found here: https://www.weightmans.com/insights/cycle-helmets-and-contributory-negligence-revisited/

So, if there are indeed "loads of cases", then please point us to one of them (I'm not trying to be snarky, but I've looked before and been unable to find an instance).

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qwerty360 replied to hawkinspeter | 3 months ago
0 likes
hawkinspeter wrote:
AidanR wrote:

There is precedent for not wearing a helmet being contributory negligence and reducing compensation claims.

Was that the case in Ireland or another instance? Last time I looked, I couldn't find any examples in the UK.

 

IIRC there are cases the cyclist won that could be used for contributory negligence here.

There are 2 requirements for it to be contributory negligence:

1. That wearing a helmet is a reasonable action/expectation for the activity;

2. That wearing a helmet would be reasonably expected to make a difference to the injuries.

 

A court set case law established this principle for safety gear applied to cycle helmets and ruled that 1 was valid for cycle helmets; despite the minimal effectiveness, wide usage + government recommendation meant wearing one was a reasonable expectation, but that 2 wasn't met because car collisions are almost always well beyond any design spec for a cycle helmet.

 

But in this case, the rider wasn't hit by a car, they had a fall; Helmets are designed to help with falls...

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hawkinspeter replied to qwerty360 | 3 months ago
0 likes
qwerty360 wrote:

IIRC there are cases the cyclist won that could be used for contributory negligence here.

There are 2 requirements for it to be contributory negligence:

1. That wearing a helmet is a reasonable action/expectation for the activity;

2. That wearing a helmet would be reasonably expected to make a difference to the injuries.

A court set case law established this principle for safety gear applied to cycle helmets and ruled that 1 was valid for cycle helmets; despite the minimal effectiveness, wide usage + government recommendation meant wearing one was a reasonable expectation, but that 2 wasn't met because car collisions are almost always well beyond any design spec for a cycle helmet.

But in this case, the rider wasn't hit by a car, they had a fall; Helmets are designed to help with falls...

I'm not convinced that "reasonably expected to make a difference" would be sufficient and instead I'd expect a court to get a medical opinion on the nature of the injuries, but all the case reviews that I've seen have determined that the impact was beyond the design limits of cycle helmets.

Do you have any specific example?

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wycombewheeler replied to qwerty360 | 3 months ago
3 likes
qwerty360 wrote:

 

 

But in this case, the rider wasn't hit by a car, they had a fall; Helmets are designed to help with falls...

But they are ineffective against spinal injuries as far as I know.

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qwerty360 replied to wycombewheeler | 3 months ago
0 likes
wycombewheeler wrote:
qwerty360 wrote:

But in this case, the rider wasn't hit by a car, they had a fall; Helmets are designed to help with falls...

But they are ineffective against spinal injuries as far as I know.

 

Yep;

 

I mean I disagree with helmets being pushed and more than trivial deductions given it can be easily argued that they only reliably prevent minor cuts/bruises (i.e. IMHO any deduction should be capped at a few £100 as well as %age given that is all you would get for light bruising/cuts);

I have seen a more recent argument regarding whether helmets are still a reasonable safety measure - rental bikes;

1. Use of rental bikes is a public good which helmets prevent (no real way to supply fitting helmets) and uk law allows a court to refuse contributory negligence where it damages public good.

2. Most people riding rental bikes don't use helmets; so is it still reasonable to expect helmets to be used? It isn't reasonable to treat personal and rental bikes differently.

 

 

I would still hope an insurer lost the argument on contributory negligence given the injury is severe (so likely beyond helmet protection...) but it is something that could be argued (unlike cases with cars that have a lot of case law that accepts injuries are way beyond helmets...)

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Paul J replied to hawkinspeter | 3 months ago
0 likes
hawkinspeter wrote:
AidanR wrote:

There is precedent for not wearing a helmet being contributory negligence and reducing compensation claims.

Was that the case in Ireland or another instance? Last time I looked, I couldn't find any examples in the UK.

I think the Irish case may well have (in whole or part) have been following the reasoning from English cases.

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Rendel Harris replied to hawkinspeter | 3 months ago
3 likes
hawkinspeter wrote:

I doubt that whether or not he was wearing a helmet would have any influence on an award due to contributory negligence

I don't see how it could in this case, given that there is no mention of head injuries and the poor guy is paralysed from breaking his spine, although given the contortions of insurance company lawyers one wouldn't be surprised to see them saying that a cyclist without a helmet may have landed on their spine because they were too busy trying to protect their head because it was helmetless…

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james-o replied to hawkinspeter | 3 months ago
0 likes

That would make sense if you lived somewhere so rough it was reasonable to expect being shot or stabbed on any given day. 

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hawkinspeter replied to james-o | 3 months ago
1 like
james-o wrote:

That would make sense if you lived somewhere so rough it was reasonable to expect being shot or stabbed on any given day. 

The same reasoning could be applied to crashing on a bike. If you can make a thousand journeys without ever being involved in a head threatening crash, then is it reasonable to expect someone to always wear a cycle helmet?

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Rapha Nadal | 3 months ago
2 likes

The same thing happened to an acquintance a few years back - forks sheared in an identical manner.  Thankfully, he walked away with only an injured shoulder.

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Secret_squirrel replied to Rapha Nadal | 3 months ago
1 like
Rapha Nadal wrote:

The same thing happened to an acquintance a few years back - forks sheared in an identical manner.  Thankfully, he walked away with only an injured shoulder.

 

PX or another manufacturer?

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Rapha Nadal replied to Secret_squirrel | 3 months ago
0 likes

PX.  Not a gravel bike though.

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Oldfatgit | 3 months ago
3 likes

Parts from a reputable manufacturer and supplier ... few would argue that there is a more reputable manufacturer and supplier as Shimano - and yet, look at what's going on with its cranks.

No reports previous or since ... one offs are rare - but they do happen, and someone had to be the first.
Friday night specials are not uncommon.
Alternatively, no-one else has riden the forks within these specific parameters, hence no other reporting.

I wish Dr Gordon well and hope he is successful in his claim.

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cyclisto replied to Oldfatgit | 3 months ago
1 like

That is really terrifying. I wish this guy have an as happy as possible future life and fortunately there are some options to thrive in his profession despite his handicap.

I know that everything can break, but I still not fully trust carbon at critical points. A titanium bike would seem like the holy grail to me as it is immune to rust, less fatigue stress than Aluminium and comfortable but the sheer majority of them have carbon forks and I cannot understand why there is this omission from the market

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ChasP replied to cyclisto | 3 months ago
1 like

It's far more common for a titanium frame to crack than a carbon.

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cyclisto replied to ChasP | 3 months ago
0 likes

Ti stats must be really low, to be honest I just distantly knew a single cyclist in a group ride that had a Ti frame. I believe people buy Ti for longevity mostly and hoping to have an indestructible bike and more or less I believe this is true.

Another thing is how things crack. A hairline crack and a life changing failure is different stories.

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wycombewheeler replied to ChasP | 3 months ago
0 likes

I've seen a ti frame buckeled at the head tube where the rider t boned a van. the carbon forks had not broken.

My take from this is that carbon forks can be incredibly robust, but I have also seen that carbon can be badly affected by abrasion. So frequent insp[ection at likely rubbing points are a good idea.

This is not to say that the rider in this case should have inspected his forks, or that he didn't or that there wasn't some defect with the forks. Only that there is no reason to veto the use of carbon for forks.

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fenix replied to wycombewheeler | 3 months ago
1 like

But this was a brand new bike. How could forks have abraded ?

I've had CF forks for years and never had any issues or abrasion.

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