Father's pounds 1m award cut

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A father who saw his daughters drown after their nanny drove the family car into a river, had his record pounds 1.3m award for damages award cut almost in half by the Court of Appeal.

Three appeal judges yesterday reduced 53-year-old Peter Vernon's pay- out to just over pounds 620,000, and said he must also pay his share of the legal costs, which total more than pounds 2m. Much of Mr Vernon's damages will go straight back to the Legal Aid Board, which funded his marathon claim.

In August 1992, Mr Vernon suffered "every parent's worst nightmare" when the family Volvo, with nanny Katherine Bosley at the wheel, plunged into the River Tawe at Ynys Isaf, Powys. Inside the car were Sophie Beloe, daughter of a family friend, his two daughters - Theresa, aged three, and Philippa, seven, - along with the family labrador, Sheba, all of whom died. Miss Bosley escaped through the driver's window.

Mr Vernon, who arrived at the scene soon afterwards, had to watch helplessly as vain efforts were made to save the children.

In January last year, a High Court judge, Mr Justice Sedley, awarded Mr Vernon, of Kingscot, Tetbury in Gloucestershire, more than pounds 1.3m damages against Miss Bosley's insurer - General Accident - which admitted liability.

The judge said the accident had destroyed Mr Vernon's marriage, leaving him a "helpless and dependent" shadow of his former self, and the damages award was a record pay-out for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

At the Court of Appeal yesterday, Lord Justice Stuart-Smith said that in his view Mr Vernon's claim against the insurance company should have failed.But Lord Justice Evans and Lord Justice Thorpe upheld Mr Justice Sedley's finding that Mr Vernon's mental problems were attributable to what he had witnessed on the river bank.

All three judges agreed that the award had been too high, and the pay- out was reduced to pounds 621,940.