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'Bionic' Newton Abbot paralympic athlete in court fight with insurer

By Western Morning News  |  Posted: February 22, 2013

  • David Follett, photographed here wearing the revolutionary 'bionic' suit, is objecting to insurer's demands


An Olympic torch bearer awarded £4 million for horrific crash injuries has gone to court challenging an insurer's proposal to subject him to "invasive" medical examinations.

David Follett, 23, from South Devon, first hit the headlines last April when he put on a revolutionary "bionic" suit, temporarily enabling him to walk, despite catastrophic spinal injuries sustained in an accident five years ago.

The paralympic badminton player was once more in the public eye when he carried the Olympic flame during part of its journey – although he had the ill-luck to be holding it when it suddenly fizzled out while he was taking it through Great Torrington.

Now David is taking on insurers Aviva in protest at their plans to require him to undergo periodic medical assessments in connection with the £4m payout he won in December 2011.

David, of Newton Abbot, settled his case for a lump sum of £1,652,700, plus annual, index-linked and tax-free payments of £52,500 for the rest of his life to cover the costs of care and special equipment he will need.

The compensation is being paid by Aviva, which insured a motorist whose car struck David on Exmouth seafront in April 2007, rendering him tetraplegic.

However, lawyers have now clashed at the Court of Appeal over Aviva's demand that David undergoes periodic medical examinations so that the insurers can evaluate, amongst other things, his life expectancy and state of health.

In a case which will have an impact on many of the most serious accident cases, Aviva's legal team is challenging a judge's refusal to countenance their request. But David's counsel, Mr Stephen Killalea QC, argued the examinations would amount to a clear "invasion of privacy" and involve straying into "intimate" areas of his life. "Mr Follett doesn't wish to have it," he said..

"What's being asked for is an order compelling him to be subject to requirements to undergo medical examinations where the only stated purpose is that this is the way the defendant insurers want to run their business. It is an invasion of privacy."

Aviva's QC, Tim Horlock, denied the examinations would be "invasive or intrusive", although he accepted that they might at some point involve "requesting intimate details". Lord Justice Mummery questioned whether it might seem "high-handed" to subject individuals like David to "ongoing compulsory medical examinations".

Mr Horlock responded that the checks would only be carried out once every five years, would have few "adverse effects" and would provide essential up-to-date information for Aviva regarding the likely future drain on their financial reserves.

Lord Justice Mummery, sitting with Lord Justice Leveson on Tuesday, reserved judgment on Aviva's appeal and the court will give its ruling at a later date.

Stephen Nye, David's solicitor, said after the hearing that the disabled athlete is simply sick of seeing doctors and lawyers after years of exhaustive litigation.

"He wants to draw a line under it all," said Mr Nye. "He doesn't even want to see me particularly, let alone the people he's been fighting against. The litigation has been a hard-fought battle over a long period of time. Life must go on and he doesn't want any further involvement in a process involving medical examinations. We must draw a line under it."

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