JUSTICE: Six-day hearing set for bin lorry crash civil case

Six people died when they were struck by bin lorry on Glasgow's Queen Street in 2014.
Bin lorry driver Harry Clarke and the crash scene where six people died.

By Democrat reporter

A Court of Session judge will examine claims that a bus company acted negligently in failing to provide Glasgow council staff with an accurate reference for bin lorry driver Harry Clarke.

Judge Lord Ericht arranged for six days of hearings to take place in September 2021 during a procedural hearing on Thursday at the Court of Session in Edinburgh.

In December 2014, driver Harry Clarke collapsed while at the wheel of a bin lorry, which crashed into pedestrians and killed six people in Glasgow city centre.

A further 15 people were injured when the Glasgow City Council truck veered out of control.

It travelled along the pavement in Queen Street before crashing into the side of the Millennium Hotel in George Square.

The proceedings will deal with allegations that First Glasgow (No.1) Ltd acted negligently in its dealings with Glasgow City Council.

Scotland’s largest local authority is suing the coach company, seeking a total of £446,012.

Lawyers for the council claim First Glasgow failed to disclose that Mr Clarke lost consciousness at the wheel of a bus in 2010. Clarke, of Glasgow, was driving the refuse truck that struck and caused the deaths of six people in the city’s Queen Street on December 22, 2014.

Erin McQuade, the 18-year-old Dumbarton woman who was killed.

Student Erin McQuade, 18, and her grandparents – 68-year-old Jack and 69-year-old Lorraine Sweeney – lost their lives in the incident.  The other people who died were Stephanie Tait, 29, Jacqueline Morton, 51, and 52-year-old Gillian Ewing.

Crown Office lawyers decided not to prosecute Clarke on the basis that he had a medical condition and there was no evidence to show he broke the law.  The families of those who lost their lives after the incident tried to raise a private prosecution against Clarke.  They argued that Clarke had made “misrepresentations” about his medical history to the DVLA and to his employers. However, senior judges didn’t allow the prosecution to proceed. 

Glasgow City Council also suffered a setback in its action against First Glasgow after another hearing last year at the Court of Session.

Its legal team sought to recover a total of £903,714.40 from First Glasgow.  In those proceedings, the council’s lawyers claimed the alleged failure to disclose the information about Mr Clarke passing out meant the firm breached a duty of care to the pedestrians who were killed.

However, Lord Ericht ruled against the local authority.

The hearing on Thursday came just one month after the original proof had to be postponed due to what Lord Ericht described as the “extremely unsatisfactory” conduct of Glasgow City Council’s legal team.

The judge spoke after lawyers for Glasgow City Council attempted to lodge a document with officials, which they believed to support their case.  Lawyers for First Glasgow said the council’s request to lodge the document breached court rules and placed them at a disadvantage.

Lord Ericht agreed to postpone the case but criticised Glasgow City Council for their actions and ordered the local authority to pay punitive legal costs to First Glasgow.

On Thursday, the judge told lawyers that the case would begin on September 28, 2021.

Top of page picture: Jack and Lorraine McMenamin Sweeney and their granddaughter Erin McQuade, were on a pre-Christmas day out when tragedy struck.

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