Car-crash former monk gets £42k

Sangthong Phensrisai
Sangthong Phensrisai

A FORMER Buddhist monk who could not bow or perform sitting meditation after surviving a car crash has been awarded £42,316 in damages.

Sangthong Phensrisai, 52, fell asleep as a passenger in a car and woke up in hospital with serious injuries after the collision which claimed the lives of three Buddhist monks.

The group were travelling from London to Edinburgh on December 24 in 2012 when the driver of the Nissan Note lost control on the A68 road south of Pathhead, in Midlothian. The vehicle flipped on its side and another car drove into its roof.

Thai-born Mr Phensrisai had left the monastic life months before after coming to Britain a decade earlier to teach meditation at a temple in London.

He had started a PhD course at university on a thesis related to euthanasia in Buddhism in Thailand. While carrying out his research he worked part-time at prisons in London and as an interpreter.

He suffered a number of fractures in the road accident and subsequently raised an action at the Court of Session in Edinburgh suing the driver of the car Anong Yutikan, of Putney, in London. He originally claimed £250,000 in compensation.

Liability in the action was admitted but lawyers acting for the driver claimed that the sum sued for was excessive. The judge, Lord Uist, had to establish the level of damages.

The court heard that when Professor Margaret McQueen, professor of orthopaedic trauma at Edinburgh University, saw the crash survivor in July 2013 he told her he still had pain in his back and chest.

Lord Uist said in a judgement that the crash victim had been clearly mentally affected by the injuries he sustained, but added that he considered that a psychiatrist was too pessimistic in diagnosing a chronic adjustment disorder.

Lord Uist said that he award damages for pain and suffering at £30,000. He awarded a further £5000 for services given by his sister Khanitta who flew from Thailand to care for him for several months after he left hospital and £560 for flights

The judge made an award of £3059 for lost wages and further sums for lost items such as a laptop and abortive PhD fees.

Mr Phensrisai, of Pilrig Glebe, returned to studies and the judge rejected a claim for a loss of earning capacity alleging that he would be compromised on the labour market.

Lord Uist said: “It is unlikely that the pursuer would have sought any form of employment which he would now be excluded by reason of the injuries he sustained. I note also that since the accident he has carried out work as a cleaner and also that he has been able to study for an MSc.”

The judge also rejected a claim for loss of earnings because of delay in obtaining his doctorate.

He said he was satisfied that he was likely to have achieved his PhD within four years of the accident, but added he thought it was not possible to make any realistic assessment of his prospects of his going on to become a lecturer. Lord Uist said: “While I am in no doubt that the pursuer had, and has, a sincere and earnest ambition to become a lecturer on completion of his PhD, I am not satisfied that it is an ambition which he is likely to achieve.”

newsen@edinburghnews.com