Zoo worker who lost eye in 90mph crash with cow is suing for £200k

The crash on the Acle Straight happened shortly before midnight in April 2018.

The crash on the Acle Straight happened shortly before midnight in April 2018. - Credit: Archant

A zoo worker who cheated death in a late-night 90mph horror crash with a pregnant cow has launched a High Court claim for more than £200,000 compensation.

Robyn Clark suffered life-threatening, severe injuries, including losing her left eye and much of the sight in her right, and her sense of smell, following the crash on the Acle Straight in April 2018.

The 30-year-old spent two weeks in intensive care, followed by two-and-a-half months in hospital, and has now launched legal action against the driver of the car she was travelling and a Stokesby farm company.

Miss Clark, of Whites Lane, Kessingland, was a front-seat passenger in Nicholas Mitchell's Mercedes A45 when the car crashed into a cow, which had escaped from a nearby field, at around 90mph, according to a writ issued at the London court.

A witness who says he was overtaken by Mr Mitchell minutes earlier is said to have described him as driving at a “crazy speed,” the court papers say.

After hitting the cow, the car continued for around 140 metres before coming to a halt, and minutes later it was hit by a Honda Civic travelling in the opposite direction.

The cow was one of several which had escaped from a narrow field running along the River Bure, and it is believed that the gates to the field had not been properly maintained or secured, the writ says.

After the accident, Miss Clark was taken to Addenbrooke’s Hospital, Cambridge, where she needed brain surgery, and a titanium plate inserted in her skull.

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Now she needs to either wear a contact lens in her remaining eye, or thick spectacles to have useful vision, as well as additional spectacles for reading, and her pupil is permanently dilated so she needs to wear tinted lenses says the writ.

She moved to live with her father and stepmother, who helped her during her slow rehabilitation, but she has found it difficult to adjust to the loss of her left eye and reduced sight in her right. She is also said to have suffered a range of typical traumatic brain injury symptoms, including headaches, dizziness, impaired memory, concentration, attention, fatigue, noise intolerance and disturbed sleep, the writ says.

Despite this it says she started to go back to work on lighter duties in May 2019 but has not been able to return to her pre accident duties, and is limited in terms of which animals she can work with, and the environments in the zoo where she can work safely.

Miss Clark has been unable to return to working with animals in the high security zone because of her limited vision, and will probably remained restricted at work and disadvantaged on the open labour market, the writ claims.

The writ accuses Mr Mitchell, of Cromer Road, North Walsham, of negligence, saying he drove too fast, probably at more than 90mph, on an unlit country road shortly before midnight, failed to keep a proper lookout, collided with the cow, failed to avoid colliding with the cow, failed to use high beam headlights effectively, and failed to minimize the hazard created by his crashed car.

Farm company Charles Wharton Ltd, who were responsible for security of the field which was rented to a cattle farmer, are accused of failing to make a proper assessment of the risk from escaping cattle, and the risk that members of the public could leave gates open.

It is claimed that the company failed to secure the gates with a padlock and chain, failed to maintain or repair gates on another part of the field, failed to install a stile for walkers, or signage, and failed to ensure gates were hinged inwards.

After the accident, Miss Clark, who suffered a seizure and multiple facial injuries and took anticonvulsant medication for some time after the crash, is seeking provisional damages at this stage, but she wants to keep the way open to return to court to seek more damages if she develops epilepsy within 30 years, or retinal detachment or traumatic glaucoma.