Three generations of a family won £100,000 damages yesterday after thousands of gallons of volatile-aviation fuel were spilled in a fatal crash.
Morag McKenzie, 72, her daughter and granddaughter sued the firms employing the tanker driver and a delivery-van driver involved in the collision.
A judge at the Court of Session in Edinburgh said: “The accident had a deep and lasting effect on their lives.”
Lord Woolman said that Mrs McKenzie, whose daughter and granddaughter were living with her at the time, did not stay at her home at Blue Cedars in Drum in Perth and Kinross for two years after the incident, on January 9 2012.
The judge ruled Asda van driver Tristan McKenzie from Dalgety Bay was negligent in the accident, and 75% to blame.
He also held DHL tanker driver Alan Robertson, 63, of Cumbernauld – who died in the crash – 25% culpable.
Mr McKenzie, 30, was working for the supermarket firm and making a delivery in the area when he mistakenly turned into a cul-de-sac after relying on the van’s satnav.
He drove back onto the A977 road and started to make a right turn to the intended destination, but the tanker had begun to overtake his vehicle.
The front-left wheel arch of the tanker struck “a glancing blow” and it veered off the road, over a verge and down an embankment into the garden at Blue Cedars, with the tractor unit detaching from the trailer.
Lord Woolman said: “Tragically, Mr Robertson sustained serious injuries in the cab from which he died.
“The trailer rolled over and thousands of gallons of aviation fuel spilled into the garden, but did not ignite.
“The van was left stationary on the road facing Drum.
“Mr McKenzie was found by individuals who came on the scene in a state of shock.”
A schoolteacher who was driving behind the tanker thought, when he realised it was crashing: “We are all going to die.”
The amount of damages to be paid in the action was agreed if liability was established against either of the firms, with Mrs McKenzie to receive £75,000, her daughter Heather Davidson, 46, to get £20,000 and the teenage granddaughter to receive £5,000.
Each firm has vicarious liability for the conduct of the drivers and both argued the other was entirely responsible or, alternatively, 80% to blame.
The relatives contended they were each equally to blame.
Lord Woolman said that Mr McKenzie owed a duty to take reasonable care to ensure that he did not come on to the A977 or turn off it before he checked that it was safe.
Mr McKenzie said he did so, but his evidence was rejected.
The judge said Mr Robertson materially contributed toward the accident by embarking on the overtaking manoeuvre, which was “a potentially hazardous enterprise”.
Colleague of deceased shocked by acquittal decision
Tristan McKenzie, stood trial in 2014 for causing Mr Robertson’s death by careless driving, but was found not guilty by a jury.
Mr Robertson, a father and grandfather, had been a professional driver for 43 years.
During the trial, Mr McKenzie told the court that he had been looking for a “gap in the hedge” as he searched for a house to deliver groceries in his Asda work van.
The marine-engineering student said that he accelerated up to nearly 30mph when he drove on to the A977.
He claimed he also indicated in sufficient time prior to the fatal collision taking place.
Witness Gordon Lackie, from Perth, said he was travelling behind the tanker when it indicated to overtake.
He said: “An unbelievable thing happened where the Asda delivery van turned into the path of the tanker. I couldn’t believe it happening in front of my face.
“It was a major impact. From my view of the tanker, it was like a snooker ball hitting it. It hit a major wall and there was debris and carnage.”
He was later taken to hospital after fumes from the spillage burned his throat.
Mr Robertson’s colleague, Gary Lamont, said the decision to acquit Mr McKenzie was “shocking”.