A damages claim brought against the Auto Cycle Union by a former TT course car driver can proceed to trial or be settled out of court, a Deemster has ruled.

Shaun Counsell has lodged a claim for personal injuries of up to £100,000 against race organisers following an unprecedented crash at the 2018 TT which left a rider with life-changing injuries.

Steve Mercer was among a group of red-flagged TT riders who were allowed to travel back to the Grandstand the ’wrong way’ round the course.

At Ballacrye, near Ballaugh, his machine collided head-on with a course car driven by Mr Counsell which was travelling at high speed on its way to an accident at Churchtown that claimed the life of Manx TT star Dan Kneen during an evening qualifying session.

Defendants ACU Ltd and ACU Events Ltd had applied for Mr Counsell’s damages claim to be struck out, saying it was submitted out of time.

In a judgment, Deemster John Needham said the ACU ‘appear to have a strong case’ but the claimant has ‘more than a thin prospect of success’.

He dismissed the ACU’s application for strike out and also dismissed its application for summary judgment. ‘The court will look for speedy and efficient progress to resolution, be that either through settlement, or adjudication at trial,’ he said.

Mr Counsell, of Willaston, is claiming for psychological and physical injuries arising from the collision that took place on May 30, 2018.

He had been tasked to take two police officers to the scene of the fatal crash at Churchtown.

The claimant said he attempted to slow down when he encountered the group of riders travelling at speed in the ‘wrong’ direction and was in the process of radioing a warning when the head-on collision occurred with the fifth rider, Steve Mercer.

Despite his own injuries - a painful shoulder, a cut head and whiplash - he administered life-saving first aid to Mr Mercer before more highly-trained medical staff arrived.

The court heard that since the crash, Mr Counsell has been diagnosed with post traumatic stress disorder and anxiety and he feels he has been ‘hung out to dry’ by the ACU.

He has not had a full-time job since his symptoms began.

Mr Counsell said he has suffered feelings of guilt and during the Covid lockdown of March/April 2020 he reported having ‘intrusive flashbacks’ where he saw the racer’s eyes at the time of the collision, and other troubling symptoms.

Shaun Counsell at the wheel of the TT course car
Shaun Counsell at the wheel of a TT course car (-)

ACU’s advocate Vicki Unsworth told the court that the ACU had admitted liability in connection with Mr Mercer’s significant and life-changing injuries and his case had been settled out of court.

But she argued that even taking a generous view, Mr Counsell’s claim had been submitted about six months out of time - claims have to be issued within three years of the date of knowledge of an injury.

She said the claimant’s reports contained within his own correspondence indicated he must have known of his psychological injury at the latest by October 2019.

In his judgment, Deemster Needham said it was not for him to hold a ‘mini-trial’.

He said although the defendants ‘appear to have a strong case’, he was not convinced that it was so overwhelming to grant summary judgment.

And he ruled that it was equitable for the limitation period to be disapplied in this case to allow the claim to proceed on its merits.

Deemster Needham noted: ‘There will be issues of the claimant’s own part in the collision in terms of the speed and manner of his driving and who knew what in a fast developing situation but the very fact that riders were allowed to travel at speed in the opposite direction to the direction of a course car tasked to attend the scene of the red flag incident indicates that the claimant has more than a thin prospect of success.’