Fund manager in £17m claim for personal injuries

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A successful investment fund manager who lost his "magic touch" after he was hurt in a car accident began a £17m personal injury claim yesterday, the biggest in British legal history.

A successful investment fund manager who lost his "magic touch" after he was hurt in a car accident began a £17m personal injury claim yesterday, the biggest in British legal history.

Julian Glatt was earning £250,000 a year and managed funds worth more than £2bn when he was knocked down by a car in north London in 1994.

His barrister, William Norris QC, told the High Court that his client had "gilt-edged connections" and was on the brink of joining the "big league" of élite fund managers where he would have been earning £3m a year.

But after the accident he said Mr Glatt had lost that "indefinable magic component of decisiveness and judgement". Although Mr Glatt was back at work within three weeks after the accident, he had to abandon his career and take up property investment instead.

The case is set to make legal history after the car driver's insurance company admitted 75 per cent liability. The biggest ever payout was three years ago when Martijn Biesheuval, 27, was awarded £9.2m after a road accident ruined his hopes of an accountancy career. That figure was later reduced in a settlement ahead of a Court of Appeal hearing.

Just before his accident, Mr Glatt had moved from the leading company Mercury Asset Management, where he had enjoyed a meteoric rise in his five years as a fund manager, to join the merchant banking group NM Rothschild and Sons.

"Such fund managers, if they are successful, earn, by ordinary standards, what we would all regard as astronomical sums of money," said Mr Norris. "We say he would probably have been in the big league. He had the class, the connections and the opportunities."

Mr Justice Rougier was told that the calculation for compensation even included a reduction to anticipate the likelihood of Mr Glatt, 33 at the time of the accident, being "burnt out" by the time he reached his 40s.

But Mr Norris described the £17m claim as "conservative" because of the enormous sums paid by financial institutions to high-flyers such as Mr Glatt. He said his client had been described in the financial press "as one of the real hotshots" in fund management. But Mr Norris added: "The accident has left him lukewarm."

Addressing the huge gap between previous awards and what Mr Glatt was claiming, Mr Norris said: "We fully appreciate that the court ­ and no doubt the defendant ­ will approach such a claim sceptically ... after all, this is someone who as we have already said is able to lead a normal life but for whom we claim five to six times the level of award which would typically be made to a tetraplegic."

But it was not part of his side's job to act as "apologists" for his client's earnings, said Mr Norris. "Whether any individual is worth such rewards is essentially a philosophical question. In any case, this court will be interested only in the evidence in this particular case and in Mr Glatt's unique circumstances."

Mr Norris said the effect of Mr Glatt's injury might be best seen as having made the difference between competence and brilliance. "If the probabilities are as we suggest, then the plain fact is that he is entitled to an award at the level for which we contend."

The court will be asked to consider written opinions on Mr Glatt given by leading City figures such as Sir Mark Weinberg and Carol Galley.

The hearing resumes today.