Insurance 'not liable' for £250,000 House of Fraser damage
INSURERS for a driver who smashed into Cabot Circus shopping centre in an apparent suicide attempt will not have to pay the £250,000 repair bill, senior judges have ruled.
James Williams, 26, of Stoke Gifford – who was described as a "very unhappy young man" – caused massive damage to the outside of the House of Fraser store in a crash in December 2008 which almost cost his own life, as well as that of another driver whose car was in his path.
Lord Justice Ward told London's Civil Appeal Court yesterday that Mr Williams drove his Ford Puma at speeds of up to 100 mph along the M32 and Newfoundland Street before deliberately swerving into a low wall.
The car span into the air, bounced off the roof of another car waiting at a junction and smashed into the shop window.
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Mr Williams very nearly died of his injuries but was saved thanks to the immediate first aid he received from a Bristol Royal Infirmary doctor who arrived at the scene by chance shortly afterwards.
He was left with scars and a limp from the crash.
The driver of the other car, Jamie Haynes, also suffered serious injuries, including a fractured shoulder, four fractured spinal vertebrae, a broken rib and punctured lung.
His Audi A6, which was waiting at a red light, was pushed on to its side, writing the 11-year-old car off, the court heard.
Mr Williams, of Fabian Drive, was later jailed for 21 months for dangerous driving and causing criminal damage.
He was also banned from driving for five years and ordered to take an extended driving test before ever getting back behind the wheel.
The judge who jailed him had observed: "It is clear you suffered from serious depression at that time and the purpose of your driving was to kill yourself."
Police traced an apparent suicide note in which he wrote: "Crazy, what I'm going to do now. Sorry."
The crash sparked a legal battle between the shop's insurers, Bristol Alliance Limited Partnership, who initially covered the cost of replacing the vast windows, and EUI Ltd, with whom Mr Williams had a motor policy.
EUI fought the case tooth and nail – insisting they were not liable for the damage as it had been caused by Mr Williams' "deliberate act" – and yesterday finally triumphed in what is likely to be seen as an important test case for the insurance industry.
Allowing EUI's appeal against an earlier ruling against the company, Lord Justice Ward, sitting with Lord Justice McFarlane and Dame Janet Smith, said that what Mr Williams did fell outside the terms of his policy and his vehicle was therefore uninsured at the time.
In his ruling, the judge described Mr Williams as "a very unhappy young man".
He added: "Fortunately, he seems to have recovered and, although he did not participate in this appeal, he did attend court and took a keen interest in the proceedings."
The Post attempted to contact Mr Williams after the ruling but he was not available for comment.