Sunday, 18 February 2007
Woman sues aunt for R6m after crash
Bitter court battle tears family apart
A BITTER court battle, in which a British Woman is suing her South African aunt for
R6-million, has split a once close-knit family. In 2001, Emma White’s parents gave her a holiday to South Africa as a present for her 21st birthday. White’s parents sent her to visit her maternal aunt Annatta Danckwerts, who immigrated to South Africa 30 years ago, and other family.
Now, the 27-year-old fashion design student is suing her aunt, a resident of Bedfordview, for R6-million for ain and suffering incurred when Danckwerts crashed the car in which they were travelling. White, from Middlesbrough in England, said this week that the court battle had torn her mother’s nine-sibling family apart, but she felt it was necessary to get compensation for her trauma.
“It was very difficult to make the decision to do this, but my life hasn’t been the same
since the accident and it has taken me three years longer to complete my studies
because of it,” she said when the trial began on Friday. White was travelling on the N3
between Gauteng and KwaZulu-Natal with Danckwerts and three other family members
when the car they were in crashed outside Pietermaritzburg. She said in papers before the Johannesburg High Court that her aunt was responsible for the accident because she had not watched the road properly and was driving too fast.
Danckwerts hit back in her affidavit, saying White, who was sitting behind the driver’s
seat of her Honda sedan, should have worn her seatbelt, and that the injuries her niece
sustained were partly her own fault. Danckwerts asked the court to either reduce the amount of money her niece is claiming from her or dismiss the case entirely. But White says she wants to be compensated for all the things she can no longer do because of the injuries she sustained, which include a sprained ankle and a broken upper arm bone. She said in court papers that she can no longer ice-skate or go ten-pin bowling with her friends, has difficulty driving and took an extra three years to finish her fashion degree at Northumbria University in Newcastle, England.
She said she had been unable to complete practical tests because her arm was so badly injured. White said she felt pain when she sat or stood for long periods, had discomfort and cramps in her left leg, ad had gained 13kg since the accident. Her papers also detail the psychological trauma she has suffered – which, she claims, includes post-traumatic stress disorder and depression. Now she wants compensation, including R5-million for future earnings she says she will miss out on because she cannot function normally as a fashion designer.
That amount also covers the R900 000 that a Cape Town-based actuary, Andrew Cartwright, calculated that White lost in vacation work earnings. The remaining R1-million White is claiming is for medical expenses and pain and suffering. White’s lawyer, Tzvi Brivik, said it was unfortunate that White’s mother Sheridan, and her sister were no longer speaking to each other and the court battle had created a rift in the “close-knit” family.
“This is very traumatic for them. Emma has been to the country four times since the accident for purposes of the trial and she is looking forward to focusing on her career in the UK now,” he said. The case continues.