Youngest-ever partner in Big Five firm wins £1m court case

Richard Smee, 45, was aged just 31 when appointed the youngest ever partner of top city accountancy firm, Ernst and Young. He fought his way back to work after the accident and now earns more than £425,000-a-year, London’s Civil Appeal Court heard.

But in March 1999 a judge awarded him £1,043,896 damages against the insurers of the other driver involved in the accident. More than £925,000 of the total was to compensate him for the risk he might have to retire early and lose pension rights.

At the Appeal Court, the insurers claimed the award was excessive. But Lord Justice Stuart-Smith, sitting with Lord Justice Robert Walker and Lord Justice Laws, ruled Mr Smee, of Pitlands Farm, Ramsdell, Basingstoke, was entitled to every penny of the pay-out.

The appeal judge said: ‘I have had considerable doubt as to whether or not the award was so high that we should reduce it. In the end, and not without considerable hesitation, I have concluded that we should not.’

Mr Smee suffered appalling multiple injuries when, on January 20 1995, his car collided head-on with another driven by Byron Adye, of Norris Close, Chiseldon, Swindon, on the A339. He sustained head injuries and multiple fractures to his face, right arm, hip, leg and foot, but he staged ‘a remarkable recovery’ and was back at full time work just eight months later.

Since then, he has worked ‘flat out’ and, with his earning going up year by year, in 1999 earned in the region of £425,250, Lord Justice Stuart-Smith told the court.

Judge Elizabeth Steel ruled at the High Court in March 1999 that the stress of holding down a high powered job and the long hours he worked – combined with the serious effect of the accident – created a 70% risk he would have to retire five years early.

Lord Justice Stuart-Smith said Mr Smee was ‘tired after a day’s work’ and had to cope with continuing pain. His impaired memory was a source of ‘additional tension’ to him. Upholding the award, he said Judge Steel’s assessment of Mr Smee’s personality and character must have played a part in her decision and, for that, she was ‘entitled to respect’.

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