A grieving widow whose “heroic” RAF veteran husband died after his bicycle struck a bin lorry has been awarded £1.3m in damages by jurors for her loss.
Jurors concluded that the global damage figure that 55-year-old Katrina Ronald should receive from Perth & Kinross Council is £1,319,750.
Mrs Ronald went to the Court of Session in Edinburgh because of the circumstances surrounding how her husband William, 46, lost his life on May 25, 2018.
She also sued on behalf of her 12-year-old daughter, who the court heard struggles with grief – and sleeps every night with her father’s ashes which are stored in a teddy bear.
The jurors concluded that the global damages figure that the child should be awarded was £95,000. Two other members of Mr Ronald’s family had their global damages figure assessed at £67,500 each.
The court heard how Mr Ronald had been riding his cycle on the Greenknowes to Watergate Farm Road near the village of Cleish when his bike collided with the Perth & Kinross Council refuse truck.
The court heard that Mr Ronald had been trapped under the vehicle and that medical staff had tried in vain to save his life.
Mrs Ronald wept in court as she recalled the moment she discovered that William lost his life.
On Thursday, jurors were also asked to assess whether Mr Ronald acted negligently in the collision.
The jurors concluded that he did act negligently. They assessed that he was 58% responsible for the collision and that the council employee driving the bin lorry, Jordan Paterson, was 42% responsible.
This means the sums awarded to Mr Ronald’s family will be reduced by 58%.
Speaking after the jury of 12 returned their verdicts, Lord Sandison thanked them for their service.
He said: “Your verdicts were discerning and discriminating. I am pleased to say you are now free to go.”
On Wednesday, Mrs Ronald told the court that she had seen her partner earlier in the day and he told her that he was going to go out for a bike ride.
He said he wouldn’t be “long” as he had to go to work later in the day.
She said she went out and thought he’d be back by the time she returned home.
Mrs Ronald told her lawyer Robert Milligan KC that he wasn’t there when she got back and she thought he may have got a puncture.
This caused her to go out and look for him as she thought he might have needed some help.
Mrs Ronald said she saw an ambulance parked and asked the staff whether they were dealing with an injured cyclist. The staff told her that their colleagues were dealing with a cyclist close by.
She said: “When I got there, the air ambulance had just left. I said, ‘if it’s him, he will be on it’.”
When she asked emergency staff at the scene whether they were treating a William Ronald, Mrs Ronald said a police officer told her he was dead.
She added: “When the police said he’s dead, I said no he’s not dead. I started to argue with him – I said ‘no he cannot die’.
“I wanted to see him but he said you can’t see him. He told me I couldn’t see him. I saw the bin lorry up the road.”
Mrs Ronald, of Kelty, Fife, took the action because she believed the local authority was liable for the death of Mr Ronald, who once worked as a mechanic on RAF Eurofighters, through the actions of their employee Mr Paterson.
She also told Mr Milligan that she met Mr Ronald in 2007 in a bar in Annan, Dumfries-shire and that he “swept” her off her “feet”. She said they got married in 2009 and that they had their daughter, who became “completely smitten” with her dad.
Asking about their relationship, Mr Milligan asked her: “Were you happy together?”
She replied: “Yes. It was great fun. He was always the one telling cheesy jokes and he would tell dad jokes.”
Mrs Ronald said that her husband had been in “heroic” situations when he was in the RAF but was very “modest” speaking about his service.
Jurors were shown photographs of him in his RAF uniform and were told he served in Afghanistan and had got a medal after serving there.
Mrs Ronald said he was “crazy mental” about safety and that she lectured her daughters if they went out on their bikes without wearing helmets.
She started crying as she started reliving the moments after she learned of her husband’s death.
Mrs Ronald said the police had told her that Mr Ronald had been in an accident and that the bin lorry was travelling at about 20mph at the time of the collision.
She said: “The police came to speak to me. They asked me the usual questions – ‘Was Willie suicidal?’ I said no.”
She said she couldn’t actually believe that her husband had died and she was tasked with telling her daughter that her dad had died.
She said: “It was the worst thing I’ve ever had to do. I had to tell my daughter – she was only seven. I told her, ‘daddy’s dead. He’s not coming back.’
“I felt so bad I had to explain to his mum that he wasn’t coming back.”
She said that she struggled with grief following her husband’s death and that therapy hadn’t helped her.
Mrs Ronald also told the court that their daughter was suffering with the loss of her father.
She told the court: “[My daughter is] not good at all. [She’s] 12 now. She’s got a teddy with his ashes in it. She sleeps with it every night.”
Jurors deliberating in the case were asked to consider two questions.
The first was whether “the accident” which resulted in Mr Ronald’s death was caused to any extent by the fault of the Perth and Kinross Council employee who drove the bin lorry – and whether the local authority was “liable for the loss, injury and damage to the pursuers”.
The second question which was considered by jurors was whether the accident was “caused partly by the fault of the late William Ronald” and partly “the fault” of the defender’s employee and if so what “proportion of the blame is attributable to each”.
On Thursday, Mr Milligan urged jurors to award compensation to Mrs Ronald for her loss.
He added: “No amount of money will ever bring back Mrs Ronald’s husband.
“No sum of money will give her back another Christmas, another birthday or a wedding anniversary.
“It won’t allow them to sit on the couch and watch TV together.
“But she was not given time to prepare for this. It came out of the blue. It came on a warm sunny May day.”
On Thursday afternoon, jurors concluded that Mrs Ronald should receive damages.
A family statement issued through solicitors Digby Brown said: “We mourn the loss of William every day – it’s something we’ll never truly come to terms with.
“We’d just like to thank everyone who has supported us over the last five years but as the civil action is ongoing we don’t wish to comment further at this time.”