£1m claim commuter awarded £11,000

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The Independent Online

A commuter who sued London Underground for £1 million damages after he was grabbed by an employee at a ticket barrier has won just £11,925 in compensation.

Deputy Judge Satinder Hunjan QC said that 58-year-old Leib Spektor was the victim of "inappropriate force" but his claim was "excessive and exaggerated".

Mr Spektor had passed though the barrier with his bicycle after arriving at Canada Water tube station in February 2006 when he was asked about the route he had taken, but did not reply.

The situation escalated to the point where the employee grabbed Mr Spektor, forced him backwards and bent him over the barriers.

The judge had previously ruled that London Underground Ltd was liable to compensate Mr Spektor for injuries to his neck and lower back, and for the development of a phobic anxiety disorder which stopped him going out in the dark.

Mr Spektor, of Sangley Road, Lewisham, south east London, claimed he was left significantly disabled and asked for £1,062.069 in damages while LU offered £18,000.

Assessing compensation at the High Court in London, the judge said that Mr Spektor had a significant pre-existing medical history, including disabling osteoarthritis and had not worked for ten years.

He ruled that the incident led to problems with his neck and back for three weeks and six months respectively, while cognitive behavioural therapy would give Mr Spektor an 80% chance of fully recovering from his phobia.

He reduced a sum of £268,130 claimed for pain and suffering to £8,500, and rejected other damages claims including a "substantial amount" for a two-month trip to Thailand in January 2007 for "extensive massage" and £41,917 for ready meals.

The judge said that, according to Mr Spektor, his GP had suggested Thailand on the basis it would be a good idea for him to go to a warm climate.

He added: "The claimant says that he went to Thailand because massage can be organised at a relatively modest cost.

"On the other hand, it involves, after injury of minor trauma, him travelling half the way around the world, incurring flight and hotel expenses and the cost of massage which, incidentally, is not supported by any direct medical evidence."

He also dismissed a "highly speculative" claim for £300,000 which allegedly represented a lost chance to develop game software for in-flight entertainment which Mr Spektor said Qantas was interested in.

Commenting on the action, the judge said that it might appear "completely obvious" to lawyers that one could not sustain such a large claim, particularly in the light of the medical evidence, but it was not so clear to someone like Mr Spektor who was not legally represented.

He added: "Liability was a tough battle for him in which he succeeded and this is not a slipping or tripping case - this involved inappropriate force being used by one of the employees of London Underground."