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£1.2m awarded to crash victim

PUBLISHED: 11:20 03 October 2008 | UPDATED: 21:25 05 July 2010

A boy left severely disabled after a crash on the A12 between Yarmouth and Lowestoft has won his High Court fight for a £1.2m interim damages payout, with which his family hope to buy a nine-bedroom seaside home and adapt it to his needs.

A boy left severely disabled after a crash on the A12 between Yarmouth and Lowestoft has won his High Court fight for a £1.2m interim damages payout, with which his family hope to buy a nine-bedroom seaside home and adapt it to his needs.

Benjamin Eeles suffered severe head injuries on September 3, 1998 when a coach crashed into the car in which he was a passenger on the A12 near Hopton, and has been left with permanent brain damage as a result. There were three deaths caused by the collision.

Benjamin, now 10, through his mother Julie Eeles, of Lower Park Road, Brightlingsea, Essex, is suing the owners of the coach - Cobham Hire Services Ltd - claiming more than £5m in damages.

The company accepted liability for the crash on April 30, 2004 and an interim payment of £450,000 has already been made to the family, London's High Court heard yesterday.

The family's barrister, Catherine Howells, asked Mr Justice Foskett for a further £1.2m interim payment in order for the family to move to a nine-bedroom, £840,000, new home while they wait for Benjamin's full damages claim to be assessed.

The house, Brightlingsea Hall, is a former hotel in extensive grounds and Benjamin's lawyers say it can be adapted to meet his special needs and greatly improve his quality of life.

Miss Howells told the judge that the family of four's current home was inadequate for Benjamin, who has problems with language, concentration and motor skills.

The barrister added that Mrs Eeles gave up a £100,000-a-year job as a company finance director to care for her son following his accident and the family is supported by Ben's father Graham Eeles' earnings as a self-employed boat builder.

“We are talking about giving him quality of life and dignity of life rather than him recovering from the severity of his injuries. The need for suitable housing is one which should be a priority,” said Miss Howells.

Julian Matthews, for Cobham Hire Services Ltd, argued against the £1.2m payout, saying that the house the family proposed to buy was too large for its needs, and an interim award of this size was not justified.

Mr Matthews said the company disputes the value of Benjamin's claim, arguing it is worth not much more than £3m.

Mr Justice Foskett allowed the family's High Court application for the release of the £1.2mn.

But he warned that the final decision on whether the money can be used to buy Brightlingsea Hall will lie with the Court of Protection, who must decide if the move is in Benjamin's best interests.

The judge said: I am not giving my seal of approval on whether the property will be acquired. That will be decided by the Court of Protection if it is satisfied that it is a sensible project to embark upon in Benjamin's best interests.”

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